Do you ever realize how consumed to the internet today’s youth is? It seems as if they do not know how to socialize outside of a computer or television screen. I remember being a child and playing outside. It was very rare for children to be cooped up inside a house. There was more interaction, more friendships, and less obesity. Within the past few years the internet has skyrocketed from something exclusive to a must have thing. Of course there were video games, at least when I was younger; but even then we spent as much time as we could outside. What do kids these days find so exciting about spending their days and nights on what is called “new media?” This seems to be an incurable addiction as time passes. Their presence and intensity in the lives of the youth has become more visible in recent years. There has been research done to explore the effects the media has had on these younger generations who have been exposed to it from a young age.
“A child born in the 1930s might have spent as much as several hours a week listening to the radio; reading comic books, newspapers, or magazines; or watching a film at a local theatre. Since television was first introduced in the 1950s, the number of hours young people spend interacting in some way with media, as well as the range and capabilities of the many devices and activities that could be considered media experiences, have increased to an extent far beyond the imagining of today’s grandparents when they were young. Children today use electronic media from two to five hours daily, and infants—even in utero—are regularly exposed to a variety of media” (Beatty, 2006). Parents seem to be the most concerned about their children’s media exposure and the content which they see on the internet. There has been research done to see children’s media consumption.
Growing up in a Media Saturated Environment
The average American home contains:
· 3.5 Television (82 percent of families have cable access or satellite TV)
· 1.9 VCRs/DVD players
· 1.5 Computers (74 percent of families have internet access; 60 percent have instant messaging software)
Children use electronic media from 2 to 5 hours daily, spending more time with television than in any other activity except sleep.
75 percent of children ages 8–18 have a television in their bedroom; 36 percent of children ages 0–6 do.
44 percent of children ages 8–18 use a computer every day, and 39 percent play video games every day.
Source: Vandewater and Lee (2006)
As you can see with the information shown above, the numbers are staggering. The fact that children spend more time with media than they do any other activity goes to show how times have changed. The quality of children’s programming these days is not even educational so they are usually exposing themselves to hours of useless activity. Computers allow children and adults to access word processing programs as well as research the internet to play games, watch videos, listen to music, and interact with others. Is it that difficult to understand why everyone seems so caught up in this fad? Cell phones are not far behind as an example of new media. Children as young as seven have been seen with their own cell phones. This is a concept which is still a bit difficult for me to grasp. Why would a child need their own phone? They spend all day in school where in case of an emergency they can go to the office and call their parent or guardian. I believe that the parents who are giving in to their young child’s requests for cell phones and laptops are only making problems for themselves. It is hard enough to keep track of what your child does, especially in the world we live in today. Now to worry about what they are being exposed to by having their own personal cell phones and laptops is a bit disturbing. Sure, some of the cell phones offer good things such as tracking devices and call logs for the parents to see who their child is talking to, but this is still not enough. I feel that it is making the child feel like a grown up and robbing them of their childhood, which is supposed to be the most innocent time of their life.
Children who are not even born are exposed to these experiences. There are devices which are said to “promote the development of the fetuses in the womb which are shown to be bringing new forms of sensory intensity to young nervous systems that are highly malleable and vulnerable to significant developmental changes” (Beatty, 2006). The impact of children’s social behavior, health, education, and cognition are being negatively influenced by the amount of time they are spending with new media. Children who have been observed for these purposes have been found to have increases in aggression and obesity and problems with reading and attention. ``New media technologies are increasingly becoming more than just a simple way to pass the time. In fact, some academics suggest that technology is at the very cultural heart of the current generation of young people. “For the new culture, a trip into virtual reality is far more significant than remembering Proust. Technology, such as the internet, mobile phones, PDA’s and iPods to name a bare few, provide young people with unlimited access to opportunity. It has revolutionized the way we communicate and interact with each other.
“Technology generates opportunities: new things to explain; new ways of expression; new media of communications; and creates new forms of destruction`` (Kelly, 1998). The problems are showing amongst older youth as well. A college student was given Young`s Internet Addiction test. He spend 42 days online which qualified him to be put in the ``red zone`` of dangerous online addiction and is apparently not unusual. This student found himself fixated on a virtual character, causing his grades and friendships to slip. New media seems to be breaking face to face interaction amongst people. Teens especially find it more appropriate to chat on the internet or text one another rather than meet up to talk. Even phone conversations have lessened. Conversations are now held throughout texting, or if they have a blackberry, through blackberry messenger. The truth is that social media is not only accessed through computers. They can access their Facebook and twitter accounts on their phones. If it wasn`t bad enough that they spent hours upon hours on the computer, they can do the same throughout the day and take it wherever they go with their phones.
These new technologies have had a significant impact in not only the way people, especially the younger population, communicate, but also their abilities to socialize and work. What happens if their phones are taken away and their computers crash? Would they even know what to do with themselves? They have grown so dependent on these technologies that it has been classified as an addiction. There have been issues addressed about the displacement between reality and virtual reality and its impacts on real world social relationships, health and communication skills. So much of the youth who use the internet have such a horrible way of writing and expressing themselves. When doing schoolwork they forget how to write and edit their sentences and how to accurately express their thoughts. Something which has been thoroughly investigated is the link between obesity and the media. The truth is that children and teens are no longer engaging in as much physical activity as they should be anymore. There was a time when they could not be in the house because they were outside socializing, moving, and burning off some energy. What do they do now? They lounge inside playing video games, watching television, or spending way too much time on the internet. Obviously sitting or lying around doing absolutely no physical activity is going to cause weight gain or obesity. Not much can be expected from a person who is probably munching away on snacks while they enjoy these “extracurricular activities.”
The real questions which need to be asked are how much media to children use? What kinds of media messages are they exposed to? What are the effects of this exposure? As previously stated, there are several effects on the children who engage so much of their time with this new media. There are different kinds of methods which are used to measure the amount of time spent with media.
“Global time estimates are obtained by asking subjects to answer such questions as how many hours they spent watching television the previous day or in a typical week, or how frequently they do a particular activity (e.g., on a Likert scale that ranges from “never” to “very frequently”).
Time use diaries were first developed by economists interested in the ways Americans spend their paid work time. They differ from global time estimates in that the answer format is open-ended, allowing respondents to record their activities, usually for 24-hour stretches. Questions typically include the principal and secondary activity, duration of the activity, other participants, and location. This method is less frequently used in media research, in part because it is expensive, but it allows for a more accurate and complete picture of the activity being investigated.
This technique easily captures routine or daily activities, but it usually misses sporadic activities or those that occur only on days that are not monitored. It also can easily miss activities that are so automatic they escape notice, are considered private, or occur simultaneously with more than one other activity. Television watching that occurs while a meal is being prepared or eaten, for example, may be hidden, as might brief but frequent Internet use, such as using a computer to check the weather, movie reviews, or e-mail.
Media diaries are targeted time use diaries, focused on a single activity. Participants are asked to highlight the shows they watched on a program grid or to record whether the TV was on, who was watching, what channel, etc., by hour of the day. This method is less burdensome than a diary of all daily activities and thus allows data to be collected over longer time periods. It also allows for the collection of supplementary information, such as the participants’ reasons for doing the activity at a particular time.
Experience sampling methods provide a look at typical activities by sampling at random times of the day, often by paging participants and asking them to fill in particular information in a booklet of self-report forms. This method can capture internal aspects of the experience (motivation, mood, cognition), as well as external information (location, context, etc.). It is somewhat less burdensome than other methods, but it is useful only with participants who can write coherently about their experiences (i.e., not most children under 10—a key target for media research). It also does not allow researchers to determine the total amount of time spent on activities of interest.
Direct observation (or video observation) is an ethnographic technique for investigating social phenomena in natural settings. It provides very accurate and rich information about such issues as television viewing habits, but it is extremely time- and labor-intensive and consequently expensive—which limits the sampling that is possible. Moreover, although observation eliminates bias in answering questions, the presence of the observer or camera may have significant influence on participants’ media choices and behaviors.
Electronic monitoring is a commercial method designed to collect the data that are used to generate ratings for television programming. Two somewhat different technologies for this purpose are owned by two companies, Nielson and Arbitron, which have occasionally made them available to researchers for a fee. In the Nielson method, each viewer in the household is assigned a button on a device supplied by the company and is asked to push it when they begin and end a viewing session. Thus all programming played on that channel before the button is pushed off is counted as “viewed” by that family member, although he or she may have wandered off or begun a different activity (Beatty, 2006).
These examples obviously cover a wide variety of ways to monitor and observe someone’s behavior and daily patterns. The numbers do not lie. There is not much that needs to be done. Just sit around a bunch of teenagers and observe a regular day in their lives; Guaranteed that they spend the majority of free time that they have around some sort of new media outlet. It is not overlooked that not only should we be analyzing the amount of media exposure children and teens have, but also its content. Researchers have not yet figured out an efficient way to determine what is being consumed. The most practical way of doing so is to have the children choose their favorite shows or include the names of programs they watch on a regular basis. They use this to code the content of the television programs or video games. It is also used to generalize this into categories such as educational, drama, comedy, etc. The role media plays on the youth is influential. Its impact can either do good or bad. Through the media we are all exposed to what is acceptable behavior in society, how we should look, what we should be eating and buying, etc. As adults we can be a bit more skeptical as to what we should be believing and buying into, but younger children and teenagers see things that can drastically affect their perception of themselves.
Take a look at the ranking of these products rated by 8-12 year olds. Of the top ten brands for these ages, the Nintendo Wii is number one, while Cartoon Network is placed last. Why is this? Because children and pre-teens are spending more time with this new media other than watching cartoons, which is expected of children in this age range. Coming in second is the Dorito’s brand. This is not a coincidence to the factor of obesity in this country. It is pretty obvious by looking at the chart how the American youth spends their days. There is junk food, television, and interactive video games, but no other leisurely activities. Where are they reading books, spending time with their friends, going outside to play? It seems as if it is nonexistent; and in most cases it probably is.
In one of this semester’s readings, Paul Levinson describes “new new media” as having a dark side. This is based on the fact that a person can create a completely different life and persona of themselves on the internet and no one would ever know. They live a fantasy life. Many people can get caught up in this life and forget about the real world they actually live in. If your seven year old went up to you and asked you if they could create a Facebook account, the first question in your mind should be “how does this seven year old even know about Facebook?”, and “What on earth does this child need a Facebook account for anyway?” My sister is seven years old and asked my mother for an account. I didn’t believe she knew what it was and just assumed she wanted one because she heard the rest of us talking about it. Little did I know my sister knew how to use Facebook chat, comment on pictures, and write on people’s wall. I do not think that at seven years old I would have known any of this. I remember being about nine years old and wanting to use my mother’s typewriter just to play around with. Now seven year olds, and some even younger are exposed to this new world and many adults do not know how to adjust to it so they just give in.
I watched a short interview on youtube.com with a seven year old girl. She was being asked why she had Facebook, what the benefits were, and how many hours she spent using it. Her answer for why she had an account was simply because her family and friends had it; the benefits were that it enhanced her English speaking skills, and she estimated using it about half an hour a day, and a few extra hours on the weekends. Half an hour a day does not seem like much, especially when we know that time flies when you’re on Facebook; but add it up. This is almost five hours a week that this child could be using to read a book or play with her friends, and she is on a social networking website.
Yes, new media has its positive and negative aspects. The argument as to whether or not it is good for children can go on forever. The truth is that the amount of time children and teenagers are spending on the internet, playing video games, and lying around, is ridiculous. We do live in a new world where new media is becoming more popular and more of a regular way of life, but the exposure does not need to begin so young. Do we really want to live in a completely digital world with no real world interaction with one another other than communicating on the internet? It is becoming a very antisocial way of living for many, and if it continues the way it is going it is going to remain this way for good.