We spend much more time with digital media than we did a decade ago. Our teenage children have already grown up or will grow up with smartphones. Compared to when we were teens, how and when teens today interact with traditional media like books are different on a fundamental level.
The American Psychological Association published a study in which they surveyed over a million U.S. Teens since 1976. There is a groundbreaking shift in how they are spending their free time. And to no one’s surprise, books are going to seed. The hype has been and is increasingly all about the screen.
I hope you’re sitting down for this – in 2016, the average senior high school spent six hours a day texting, online, and scrolling social media. Six hours of free time spent looking at a screen.
There are only 24 hours in a day. We need a fundamental shift in how our children spend their free time.
Of those same 12th graders, only one out of every three said they had read a book for pleasure during that year. One out of ten 8th graders spends 40 hours per week on some sort of gaming system.
This decline in reading should be concerning. Reading books is one of the best ways to learn how to think critically. It’s the teacher of understanding complex issues. It’s also the way we learn how to separate fact from fiction. Without it, we don’t have informed voters, successful students, and productive workers.
It’s crucial for being an informed voter, an involved citizen, a successful college student, and a productive employee. This shouldn’t scare you into taking screens away entirely but we can do better in how we help our children spend their free time.