It's the kind of statistic that might make most parents consider a time lock for their TV sets.
Youths 8 to 18 now spend an average 7 hours and 38 minutes a day using entertainment media, marking a 20 percent increase from 2004, according to a new study released Wednesday.
Factor in how much media multitasking goes on — using more than one media source at the same time — and the total jumps to an average 10 hours and 45 minutes daily. That's more than many full-time jobs.
But suggest to St. Petersburg resident Carrie Kilgroe that those numbers mean she should crack down on her three kids' access to their cell phones and the TV sets in their bedrooms, and she offers a different take.
"I look at my children as a total picture, at about 30,000 feet," said Kilgroe, mother to kids ages 9, 12 and 14, ranging from third grade to freshman in high school.
"Are they performing at school? Do they have good relationships? Is their behavior age-appropriate?" she added. "I feel like I have a lot of rules for academic and sports behavior, so if they focus on that, the other stuff gets moderated by default."
But researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation are hoping to make families more aware of their media usage by talking up their latest study, ''Generation M²: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.'' Conducted over six months from October 2008 to May 2009, the project measured the media habits of 2,002 people ages 8 to 18, the third in a series to examine media use among American youth.
Most participants filled out questionnaires in their classrooms, while a smaller sample of 702 kids filled out weekly media use diaries to document the multitasking. Researchers didn't count the hours cell phones were used for texting or talking.
Some of the results were startling, including:
• Heavy media users got worse grades. About half of heavy users — those consuming more than 16 hours per day — said they got C-level grades or lower, compared to 23 percent of light users. However, researchers note they can't prove cause and effect, leaving open questions of whether heavy use causes poor grades, youth with poor grades are drawn to media more or something else is at play.
• Black and Hispanic children consume more than fours hours more media each day than white children, with some of the biggest differences found in TV viewing time.
• Only about three in 10 young people say they have rules about how much time they can spend watching TV, playing video games or using the computer. Those who have any rules consume nearly three hours less media.
• Two-thirds of young people (64 percent) say the TV is usually on during meals; 45 percent say the TV is left on even when no one is in the room; and 71 percent have a TV in their rooms.
Vicky Rideout, vice president and director of the Kaiser Foundation's Program for the Study of Media and Health, said the survey isn't designed to show whether such extensive media use is harmful. But it does indicate that youth are swimming in a sea of media every day in a way parents might not have considered before.
"There's an awful lot of media messages coming into kids' minds, and it's important for parents to stop and take a look at what their kids are doing," said Rideout, who suggested families could take TV sets out of kids' bedrooms or turn them off during meals to cut media usage time dramatically. "Media has got to be looked at as an environmental health influence."
And while such usage tallies sound high — 16 hours a day? Really? — in my own home, the children often watch parts of TV shows on our digital video recorder before school in the mornings. They also surf Facebook with their iPod Touches after doing homework in the evenings.
The statistics also reveal the turbulent times of modern media. Only two areas of media didn't rise in usage from 2004: print and movies (in fact, newspaper usage dropped 50 percent, from 6 minutes daily to 3 minutes).
And in a first, the amount of time watching regularly scheduled TV dropped by 25 minutes daily. It reinforces the problems TV networks have with viewers migrating online and to DVRs, where advertising earns less money.
"What's going on in regular media we see amplified in the habits of youth, where content has become disconnected from the platform," said Rideout. "If you want to watch TV, you don't have to sit down in front of a television when the show is broadcast. You can watch TV and switch to playing a video game all on your cell phone."
A serious TV fan in her own right, Kilgroe admits that some parents find her lack of TV rules surprising. But she thinks her approach allows her children to make decisions on their own.
"They have a sense of control over themselves and their lives," she said. "It's only a big issue if you make it a big issue, I think."
And what's the ultimate lesson in all this for Kaiser researcher Rideout?
"I'd buy stock in every kind of media company," she said. "Except print."
Eric Deggans can be reached at (727) 893-8521 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow The Feed blog at blogs.tampabay.com/media.