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The (Non-)Issue of Kids and Electronics

Written by Katrina Moncure Jan 20, 2010

USA Today just came out with some horrible catastrophic news!

Kids these days spend so much time with electronic media — cellphones, iPods, video games and computers — that it might as well be a full-time job: more than 53 hours a week, a study finds.

Compared with peers a decade ago, young people spend 79 more minutes of free time each day listening to music, watching TV and movies, playing video games and hanging out online. Nearly twice as many now say they do at least two of these at the same time.

Oh the horror!

Or no, horror isn’t the word I want. I think the words I’m looking for are “so what?”

Why is this apparently a crisis? This is one of probably one or two “news” stories a week lamenting that, oh no, young people like to use the internet and play video games. Because, as we see repeatedly, young people’s lives are public property, every aspect of those lives must come under the big adult microscope and be scrutinized and analyzed and, most importantly, treated like a major social problem.

Oh, kids are using cell phones and iPods more than they did a decade ago? I’m going to go out on a limb here and think that maybe a decade ago these things just weren’t as ubiquitous and advanced among the general population, so of course they weren’t being used as much. While you’re at it, I’m pretty sure television watching among youth has increased from 0% to 100% since 1910, so why don’t you cry about that?

These “horrible” gadgets are simply part of our culture, and yes, as hard as it is for many to grasp, youth are part of our society too and take part in its cultural aspects. People of ALL ages are using these electronics more. It’s not a crisis. It’s normal technological and social shifts.

Oh, it goes on…

About the only thing that seems to be fading: ink. Though daily book readership has held steady at about 47% since 1999, the percentage of young people who say they read a magazine every day has plummeted from 55% to 35%. It’s worse for newspapers, down from 42% to 23%.

Alright, USA Today, I’m seeing what this is really about. You see, all these numbers tell me is that young people (and older people for that matter) aren’t bothering to spend money on newspapers and magazines any more, which takes up money and space, and have found it easier, cheaper, and more efficient to look these things up online. So, again, this isn’t a “let’s cry over these poor kids” so much as, just as any other “news” story of this type, it’s really a veiled lamentation about something else entirely and youth are an all too convenient scapegoat. Convince idiot parents that the electronics are bad and print media are good, then newspapers (like USA Today) and magazines might see an increase in sales because it’s not damaging to kids while getting this same information electronically is. Aha!

Also, I get sick of the whole “kids don’t know what books are, LOL” crap. The simple fact is, books can’t self-update. The old set of encyclopedias my parents have had since like 1981 are all still carrying information as of 1981 and earlier. Wikipedia and other online information sources are updated frequently, as things happen. So, sorry to break it to you, but printed media just can’t measure up anymore. Roll with it instead of attacking youth for what YOU won’t adapt to.

As for how much time is spent involved in these activities, again, so what? I’m 26 and there is only a small amount of time in my normal day in which I’m not either in front of a computer or asleep (or sometimes both, hehe). Also, this “hanging out online” thing isn’t the impersonal cesspool adults like to pretend it is. Sometimes friends and family members live far away and Facebook is the best way to keep contact. In fact, this past Christmas, we held a Christmas Day chat on AIM because some of our members were alone on the holiday and it was the best way we could keep them company, for us to still spend the holiday together in a way, while still physically spending it with our individual families. If you’re going to sit there on your high horse and act like this is evil, honestly, you’re sounding like the evil, bitter one and can go to hell.

So if there is a problem here, it is not with the youth, but with adults insisting that every single thing about youth is a sign of impending disaster. The disaster being, of course, a world slightly different from the one you grew up in, and therefore the only valid way the world could be, and you simply can’t have that! Yeah, good luck with that.

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