In a feast of content consumption with Houdini-like overtones, today’s multitasking youth find a way to overclock their daily intake of various media at a rate of 143%. These numbers come from a study of media’s effects on America’s youth released last week by The Kaiser Family Foundation. Over the past five years, daily media consumption by eight to eighteen year olds rose by an hour and seventeen minutes to seven hours and thirty-eight minutes: roughly the length of a typical workday. Of course, childrens’ media consumption does not take weekends and Holidays off.
The sheer volume of watched, heard, read and gamed material is staggering. Even if it is all intellectually vapid, the scale of consumption boggles slower minds like mine. In fact, it’s arguably far worse if most of that content is intellect-free: the mental hard drive is decidedly finite and clogging it up with tripe like the names of every Autobot or the Jonas Brothers’ astrological signs seems unconscionably wasteful.
Consumption of almost every type of media is up over the ten years of the study, with the glaring exception of magazines and newspapers. But before you let that bum you out too much regarding our nation’s future, the time spent reading books has actually increased over the past ten years. Granted, it’s only twenty-five minutes a day, or less than ten percent the amount of time devoted to television, but it’s still reading. And candidly, in a footrace between The Last of the Mohicans and GTA San Andreas, bet on the glock-wielding digital homies to win everytime.
The one definite upside of this information? If your kid ever tries to weasel out of chores with an “I’m too busy” excuse, the facts are on your side.