If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online

Based on the New York Times article below (also distributed by the ASCD Smart Brief), a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours per day using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device. Additionally, because many of them are multitasking, some children are actually cramming almost 11 hours on average of media content into those seven and a half hours.

The study surveyed more than 2,000 students in grades 3 to 12 between October 2008 and May 2009. The report says that the heaviest media users are black and Hispanic youths and pre-teens (ages 11 to 14). As the article summaries: “The third in a series, the study found that young people’s media consumption grew far more in the last five years than from 1999 to 2004, as sophisticated mobile technology like iPods and smart phones brought media access into teenagers’ pockets and beds.”

When the study was conducted in 2004, media use was less than six and a half hours and authors of the survey concluded that it could not increase. Yet, not only has digital use increased, the study also found “that heavy media use is associated with several negatives, including behavior problems and lower grades.” While the study does not say whether media use causes specific problems, or whether troubled youths turn to heavy media use, here are relevant implications from the report:

• “47 percent of the heaviest media users — those who consumed at least 16 hours a day — had mostly C’s or lower, compared with 23 percent of those who typically consumed media three hours a day or less.
• The heaviest media users were also more likely than the lightest users to report that they were bored or sad, or that they got into trouble, did not get along well with their parents and were not happy at school.
• Other studies have established a link between screen time and obesity.”

For better or worse, technology is the way students communicate today. Our students are now living their lives on the electronic network, posting their photos, revealing their desires, making their friends, defining their identities. Stacey DeWitt on her Connect with Kids website writes, “Along with its benefits, the online world brings plagiarism and cheating, bullying, ‘sexting,’ cyberbullying and exposure kids have never had at such a young age.” Baroness Susan Greenfield, Oxford Professor of neuroscience and the Director of the Royal Institute, argues that “electronic media, especially social networking sites, are replacing children’s deep cognitive skills with short-term sensory ones,” thereby trivializing their notion of real friendship and community. Like so many things, perhaps technology is neither intrinsically good nor bad. It all depends on how students use it. So, here are logical questions:

What are constructive alternatives educators and parents can offer students? One alternative is building pen pal relationships with their peers in other parts of the world. Some children, particularly in poorer countries, are discovering for the first time the power of the web to connect human beings all over the globe for the purpose of conversation, collaboration and yes, friendship.

How can we help students navigate a brand new world built on the healthy craving for connection and keep students interested in reading books?

How can we accurately and effectively warn students about the perils of self-revelation and over-reliance on social media?


The New York Times
January 20, 2010
If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online

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.

And because so many of them are multitasking — say, surfing the Internet while listening to music — they pack on average nearly 11 hours of media content into that seven and a half hours.

“I feel like my days would be boring without it,” said Francisco Sepulveda, a 14-year-old Bronx eighth grader who uses his smart phone to surf the Web, watch videos, listen to music — and send or receive about 500 texts a day.

To view this entire article visit www.nytimes.com

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