Sunday, January 24, 2010

Media Use and Teens

The findings from this new study on teen media use are stunning:

The average young American now spends practically every waking minute — except for the time in school — using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Those ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day with such devices, compared with less than six and a half hours five years ago, when the study was last conducted. And that does not count the hour and a half that youths spend texting, or the half-hour they talk on their cellphones.

Anybody who has ever spent time interacting with teenagers appreciates how tethered they are to their technologies. At Project Coach, when we sit in a meeting or a class session they are incessantly reaching into their pocket and scanning their phone. Watching them oscillate between the task at hand and the incoming stimulus raises fundamental questions for teaching and learning. How much of their continual checking of technology diminishes their attentional focus? How do you create guidelines for use in ways that preserves the attentional field while respecting how integral the technology is to their lives?

The question integral to us in our quest to help our youth be self aware about their lives involves the degree they can understand the ubiquity of technology in their lives.

And adults reading before we get too lathered up at these preposterous findings, we probably should ask how our usage compares. From the time on the web, to email, to those slightly-surreptitious glances at the iphone and blackberry during meetings that we rationalize by saying, "that was a boring meeting, I might as well get something done." When we think of kids sitting through the grind of class after class-- I suspect that it's hard to resist the handheld sitting in their pocket.

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