Non-Stop Computing

This New York Times article is rather shocking:

The average young American now spends practically every waking minute — except for the time in school — using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Those ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day with such devices, compared with less than six and a half hours five years ago, when the study was last conducted. And that does not count the hour and a half that youths spend texting, or the half-hour they talk on their cellphones.

And because so many of them are multitasking — say, surfing the Internet while listening to music — they pack on average nearly 11 hours of media content into that seven and a half hours.

In just thinking about the numbers, this is hard for me even to comprehend.  That's a lot of time.

Equally disturbing is how the devices are being used. It's consumption driven. While I spend a great deal of time using digital devices, it's primarily for productivity, learning, and communication. The entertainment potential for my devices is greatly underutilized.  And when I'm not working, I'm reluctant to use a digital device, which can stand in the way of potential human interaction.

As an adult -- and one born well before the age of ubiquitous computing --  I appreciate the risks of spending too much time with machines and not enough time with people. Young developing minds, however, may lack the experience and context to make such judgments.

Every generation tends to be pessimistic about the next generation. I try not to fall into that trap. But, at the very least, this phenomenon is worrisome and certainly unprecedented.

D. Mark Jackson

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