Connected kids

Today’s children are Always Connected, reports Sesame Street Workship and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. Nearly one quarter of young children (ages 0 to 5) use the Internet at least once a week and just under half of all 6-year-olds play video games.
Almost nine out of ten children over age 5 watch television, averaging at least three hours of television a day.

Co-viewing — children watching TV with a parent — promotes learning, the report advises. But parents should make sure children don’t spend too much time “connected” to media.

Addicted to media

College students are “addicted to media,” concludes a University of Maryland study, 24 Hours: Unplugged. Asked to go a day without media and then write about the experience, students  described themselves as “in withdrawal, frantically craving, very anxious, extremely antsy, miserable, jittery, crazy.”

“We were surprised by how many students admitted that they were ‘incredibly addicted’ to media,” noted the project director Susan D. Moeller, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland and the director of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda which conducted the study.

Without text messaging, phone calling, instant messaging, email and Facebook, students felt they couldn’t connect with friends, even those living near by.

“Texting and IM-ing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort,” wrote one student. “When I did not have those two luxuries, I felt quite alone and secluded from my life. Although I go to a school with thousands of students, the fact that I was not able to communicate with anyone via technology was almost unbearable.”

Very few participants regularly read a newspaper, watch TV news, listen to radio news or check  mainstream media news sites online. They pick up news from secondary sources.

Via Textually.org

The media generation

If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online, reports the New York Times, quoting a Kaiser Family Foundation study.

Those ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day with electronic devices — plus another hour and a half texting and a half-hour talking on their cellphones.

The study’s findings shocked its authors, who had concluded in 2005 that use could not possibly grow further, and confirmed the fears of many parents whose children are constantly tethered to media devices.

. . . Dr. Michael Rich, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston who directs the Center on Media and Child Health, said that with media use so ubiquitous, it was time to stop arguing over whether it was good or bad and accept it as part of children’s environment, “like the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat.”

Not surprisingly, the very heavy media users (16+ hours a day), who make up 21 percent of the total, were more likely to earn low grades than the light users (three hours or less), who make up 17 percent.

The heaviest media users were also more likely than the lightest users to report that they were bored or sad, or that they got into trouble, did not get along well with their parents and were not happy at school.

The study could not say whether the media use causes problems, or, rather, whether troubled youths turn to heavy media use.

Over the past five years, ownership of cell phones and iPods has soared among 8- to 18-year-olds, growing from 39% to 66% for cell phones, and from 18% to 76% for iPods and other MP3 players.

. . . young people now spend more time listening to music, playing games, and watching TV on their cell phones (a total of :49 daily) than they spend talking on them (:33).

When parents limit TV watching, video games or computer use, children average three hours less usage per day.  But 70 percent of parents set no rules.

About two-thirds (64%) of young people say the TV is usually on during meals, and just under half (45%) say the TV is left on “most of the time” in their home, even if no one is watching.  Seven in ten (71%) have a TV in their bedroom, and half (50%) have a console video game player in their room.  Again, children in these TV-centric homes spend far more time watching: 1:30 more a day in homes where the TV is left on most of the time, and an hour more among those with a TV in their room.

“Black and Hispanic children consume nearly 4½ hours more media daily than whites,” the study found.

Some of the largest differences are in TV viewing: Black children spend nearly 6 hours and Hispanics just under 5½ hours, compared to roughly 3½ hours a day for White youth.

Time spent reading books held steady at 25 minutes a day, with another nine minutes with magazines and newspapers.

Teachers' unions lose media support

Teachers’ unions have lost media support, write Richard Whitmire and Andrew Rotherham in the Wall Street Journal.

Quick: Which newspaper in recent editorials called teachers unions “indefensible” and a barrier to reform? You’d be excused for guessing one of the conservative outlets, but it was that bastion of liberalism, the New York Times. A month ago, The New Yorker—yes, The New Yorker—published a scathing piece on the problems with New York City’s “rubber room,” a union-negotiated arrangement that lets incompetent teachers while away the day at full salary while doing nothing. The piece quoted a principal saying that union leader Randi Weingarten “would protect a dead body in the classroom.”

Things only got worse for the unions this past week. A Washington Post editorial about charter schools carried this sarcastic headline: “Poor children learn. Teachers unions are not pleased.” And the Times weighed in again Monday, calling a national teachers union “aggressively hidebound.”

What happened? Public opinion shifted to favor accountability, “no excuses” charter schools showed poor urban kids can learn and President Barack Obama bucked the unions to push for charter schools, testing, performance pay and firing bad teachers.

Data collected under No Child Left Behind provisions has made it  easier to figure out which teachers are succeeding, Whitmire and Rotherham write.

“Data and results are challenging an industry that was traditionally driven by hope, hype and good intentions,” says Jane Hannaway, the director of education policy at the Urban Institute. Ms. Hannaway argues that in the long run these emerging databases may be the most important dividend of today’s school accountability policies.

Inner-city students are doing so poorly that many blacks and other Democrats are willing to try just about anything to get change.

Good-bye text, hello ‘media collage’

Literacy 2.0 requires a “shift from text centrism to media collage,” writes Jason Ohler in Educational Leadership.

General literacy means being able to read and write the media forms of the day, which currently means being able to construct an articulate, meaningful, navigable media collage. The most common media collage is the Web page, but a number of other media constructs also qualify, including videos, digital stories, mashups, stand-and-deliver PowerPoint presentations, and games and virtual environments, to name a few.

Reading and writing will be more valuable than ever, writes Ohler, who describes himself as a “digital humanist.” And art is the “fourth R.”

KitchenTableMath is dubious.

From The Onion: Are video games adequately preparing our youth for the post-apocalyptic future?

French teens to get state-funded newspapers

To encourage newspaper reading — and help the struggling press — the French government will offer 18-year-olds a free daily copy of the newspaper of their choice, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday.

“The habit of reading the press takes hold at a very young age,” Sarkozy said, presenting the conclusions of several months of talks to an audience of media executives, journalists and officials in Paris.

Newspaper companies will provide copies for free; the state will cover distribution costs.

When I was on the Mercury News editorial board, I urged my colleagues to call for a law requiring all Americans to read a daily newspaper.  It was a joke then.