Teens text and use social media instead of reading books

By Hannah Natanson

A new study has alarming results but probably isn’t surprising to anyone who knows a teenager: High school kids today text, scroll, and use social media instead of reading books and magazines.

In their free time, American teens rock their devices for hours a day rather than getting lost in the print or long media, according to a study released Monday by the American Psychological Association.

In fact, 1 in 3 American high school students didn’t read a book for fun in 2016. During the same time period, 82% of Grade 12 students visited sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram every day.

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and one of the study’s authors, said the lack of recreational reading is troubling. For her, the most important discovery hidden in the data is this statistic: in the 1970s, about 60% of high school students said they read a book, magazine or newspaper every day. Four decades later, in 2016, 16% of high school students said they had done so.

“This decline in print media reading – especially the decline in book reading – is concerning,” said Twenge, author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood – and what that means for the rest of us. ”

The reason for this concern is that the skill set and attention required to digest the concepts of a long essay is very different from glancing at a text message or a status update, a she declared.

“Reading long texts like books and magazine articles is really important for understanding complex ideas and for developing critical thinking skills,” Twenge said. “It’s also a great practice for students going to college. “

The study, conducted by Twenge and two colleagues from San Diego state, Gabrielle Martin and Brian Spitzberg, is based on data collected as part of a survey project called Monitoring the Future that has been going on since 1975. Led by researchers at the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institutes of Health, Monitoring the Future surveys high school students across the country, asking them about their career plans and drug use, among other things.

Twenge, Martin and Spitsbergen analyzed the self-reported reading habits of eighth, tenth and twelfth graders from 1976 to 2016, representing over one million adolescents. Researchers compared high school students’ consumption of “old media” – books, newspapers and magazines – to their consumption of “digital media,” which includes the Internet, texting, video games, and social media sites.

The decline in traditional media read rates began in the early 1980s and accelerated rapidly after the mid-2000s, when smartphones and high-speed internet access became widely available. At the same time, screen time for high school students, including television, began to increase, almost tripling from the late 1970s to the mid-2010s, according to the study.

In 2016, 12th grade students reported spending about six hours of their free time each day on digital media. Grade 10 students said they spent five hours, and eighth grade students said they spent four hours.

Twenge said she and her co-authors believe the trends are closely related. Data shows that, given an hour to themselves, teens would rather take their devices than a book. “Are digital media replacing the leisure time that people once spent on traditional media? We find the answer to be yes, ”she said.

The racial and gender distribution of the group surveyed roughly matched national demographics, and key findings did not vary by race, gender or socioeconomic status, Twenge said. There was a slight difference between the sexes: Girls reported visiting social media sites more often than boys, while boys reported spending more time on video games.

The survey question asking students if they read books, magazines and newspapers and how often did not differentiate between print and electronic versions of these articles. Twenge acknowledged that this could mean that the study results underestimate or reduce the time high school students spend reading online.

But that’s unlikely, especially when it comes to books, she said. The study cites previous research to support the idea that students view books and e-books as falling under the same umbrella, meaning the study results likely accurately reflect the reading habits of students. teenagers.

Twenge, herself a mother of three, said she suspected many parents of finding the new study worrying. Not only could less time spent reading translate to poorer results in college, but the use of social media has also been shown to lead to increased social isolation and mental health issues.

So what can parents do to get their teenager to hang up and open a book?

The solution may require a complicated dance between coercion and suggestion, said Daniel Willingham, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and author of “Raising Kids Who Read.”

The first step is to get your kids away from their screens, Willingham said. But don’t link the lack of screen time to forced reading. Don’t take your teen’s phone, for example, and tell them they can pick it up after they read for 30 minutes.

“It’s not the way we treat the things we want to teach kids are enjoyable,” Willingham said. “I mean, think about it. You would never think of forcing your child to eat a piece of cake.

Instead, when applying a temporary ban on devices, make sure that books are the second best option available (after banned screens) to avoid boredom. One way to do it, according to Dean-Michael Crosby, a school teacher in England who often advises parents on this issue, is to “smear your house with catchy headlines.” He suggested leaving books lying around in the living room, kitchen, even bathrooms.

“Even if they pick one to run through it while they wait for the kettle to boil, it could be the book for them,” Crosby said. “This could be the book that hangs them forever!” “

Both Willingham and Crosby have advised trying graphic novels. With their abundance of images – coupled with more mature themes and age-appropriate content – these books can help reluctant teens enter the world of literature.

Another way to instill a love of reading is to teach children how useful it can be. The next time your child asks you a question, Willingham said, tell them to go get the answer by visiting a library and reading about the problem for themselves. Explain that books offer a level of in-depth knowledge that is not available through the “instant gratification” of the Internet.

Finally, it is important to model good reading behavior. “It almost goes without saying,” Willingham said. “If you get your kid to read and you’re kind of on Instagram all the time, why the hell would they take that seriously?” “

About Marcia G. Hussain

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