Today's Teens Glued to Electronic Media

Concerned that today's kids and teens are spending too much time glued to screens? A new study suggests you might be right. Youths between the ages of 8 and 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day cradling technology's glow, according to a study released yesterday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And that 7.5 hour total doesn't count the hour and a half kids spend texting, or the thirty minutes chattering on cell phones.

The study, called "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds," tracked time spent plastered to iPhones, laptops, televisions, videogames, and other forms of electronic media. And, as The New York Times added, "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."

When the study was last conducted back in 2005, the time spent was less than six and a half hours. The increase shouldn't come as a surprise -- after all, technology has improved, shrunk, lowered in price, and become more readily accessible (and concealable from teachers and parents) -- but according to the Times, the Kaiser Foundation was "shocked." The group had concluded in 2005 that "use could not possibly grow further."

All these bleeps and bloops from digital bits carry with them negative behavioral and educational effects. "While most of the young people in the study got good grades, 47 percent of the heaviest media users -- those who consumed at least 16 hours a day -- had mostly Cs 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," the Times reported.

So is technology to blame for bad behavior and lousy grades -- or have the times failed to change alongside technology's advances? It seems to me that educational institutions should embrace (more so than now) the irresistible lure of modern media and develop more methods of reaching out to students in an educational way. And not to sound like a tyrant, but we cannot let parents off the hook for what some may call a social disease. If you don't want your kid's eyes going bloodshot from YouTube on their iPhone, there are a variety of ways to curb and improve such behavior.

No matter how you spin it, the study says what it says and makes a valid point about how teenagers interact with the world. If we cannot link arms and travel with them, we run the risk of possibly losing them.

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