In the U.S.: More media, more problems

Photo credit: Clare Bloomfield

Michael Karlberg from Western Washington University blogs about why we should care that, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, girls and boys in middle school and high school put in a full day’s workload worth of facetime with media:

A recent study of media consumption in the U.S. shows that the average 8-18-year-old consumes over 7.5 hours of media every day. If you measure the use of more than one media at the same time, this age group actually packs over 10.5 hours of media into those 7.5 hours, through media multi-tasking. (And none of these figures include talking or texting on cell phones, which add up to about an hour per day.)

Within these overall figures, 8-18-year-olds in the U.S. spend 4.5 hours every day viewing TV – a number that has risen steadily over the past decade despite the growth of the internet. If you add up all TV viewing on weekdays, weekends, and vacations, this age group spends more time watching television every year than attending school. Full blog post.

I agree with Karlberg that we will not be able to tackle social problems on our streets, in our schools and inside our homes until we turn off the television and use more discretion in how we spend our time on our laptops and cellphones. Frankly, using these media devices has made entire generations of people apathetic. Instead of confronting issues in our neighborhoods, we turn to the TV and Internet for entertainment and even seemingly good causes like (constantly) “staying in touch” with friends and family (which borders on playtime, if you ask me).

There was a funny clip from the Colbert Report in which the host mocked the idea that social media sites like Twitter and Facebook were responsible for the activities in the recent uprising in Egypt. He asked his guest, tongue-in-cheek,  something like, “Would it have been smarter to keep the Internet up? Because I find young people are less motivated to do anything when they can go onto Facebook.” I felt this succinctly summed up the same point Karlberg makes that media breed passivity, and then cynicism and lethargy.

Except, the Egyptian young people were using the same social network sites that my friends and I in the U.S. use. So what’s the difference? Why did they use their access to millions of voices to create social change, while in the U.S. we use it to follow celebrity meltdowns? Is that an implicit statement that we don’t think there is anything that needs to be changed? Are we saying, ‘yep, I looked around and it seems everything is fine, so I’ll just see what Charlie Sheen has to say?’

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