Say Hello to the Media Dependent Generation


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Girls watching television

To say the results of the new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation floored me would be an understatement. Learning that young people across the nation are spending an average of about 7.5 hours a day with entertainment media was simply jarring. As if spending more than 53 hours each week with entertainment media weren’t bad enough, the study found that these youth have mastered an art form —  ‘media multitasking.’  By using more than one entertainment medium at a time, they are able to cram 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those same 7.5 hrs.

While my own youth may have fallen well before the advent of social media, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t adapt latter in life. I’ve embraced Twitter, succumbed to using Facebook, jumped head-first into blogging and dabbled with YouTube. On rare occasion, I even stumble. . .upon, that is. Even keeping my perspective in mind, there is not a shot that I would let my (imaginary) little ankle biters…errr…children, spend nearly one third of their day bonding with entertainment media.

It’s clear that times have changed. That coming home from school and playing outdoors until dusk isn’t the widespread norm. But when did things change so much that we taught children to become dependent on entertainment media?

I’ve seen my fair share of this phenomenon. Elementary school aged children on their cell phones in the grocery store. Teens on cell phones, well…everywhere. Not mention those who bring their Nintendo DS, portable DVD players, iPods and YouTube addictions everywhere with them. And that doesn’t even account for the children who spend all of their spare time in front of a television.

So, as I observe each day, what, to me, seems like the absurd, I wonder if these entertainment media loving youth could drop their addictions. That is to say, can we enable this generation to drop their media dependence. If we took away all of their toys, could they survive without abundant meltdowns and hissy fits?

While I would, undoubtedly, resist a bit if someone took away my Twitter, I could survive without it. I grew up without gaming systems, with strict television viewing rules and with the expectation that I would not be a media-loving couch potato. But today’s 8-18 year olds – I have a hunch their upbringings have little in common with mine. I was actually told to play outside and forbidden from owning a game system.

While Gen Y is undoubtedly media-savvy, is there such a thing as too much media?  Are we doing today’s 8-18 year olds a disservice by allowing them to consume entertainment media in excess?  Will ‘Media Rehab’ be the next reality television phenomenon?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

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