It almost defies belief, but a new study concerning teenage readership is hot off the presses. And the news is bleak. Apparently, teenagers don’t read. Which is a shame, but teen-aged people would never know their shame because … well … they don’t read … like they’re not reading this right now.
A dying breed
Findings compiled from more than four decades of research bears bad news for book-lovers. A third of teens haven’t read a single book in the past year. San Diego University analyzed data from an ongoing, nationally based lifestyle survey studying teens. According to Study Finds: “The data, which provides insight into the daily habits of over a million adolescents, shows the enormous impact of digital media over time.”
The average high schooler spent six hours a day online in 2016. This amounts to about double the time spent online a decade earlier. According to Study Finds, “Eighth graders (4 hours a day) and 10th graders (5 hours a day) didn’t lag far behind.” Compared to the aforementioned 2 percent that read the newspaper daily, a third of teens did the same in the 1990s. According to Survey Finds, “During the late ’70s, 60 percent of 12th graders read a book or magazine almost daily, but only 16 percent did by 2016.”
An interesting caveat
Television and movie-watching also have declined in the wake of the digital media rise of the past 10 years. Twenty-two percent of teens reported watching five or more hours of television in the ’90s while only 13 percent reported watching an equivalent amount in 2016. Apparently, the time spent on some media has not decreased, only the mediums have shifted.
“Blockbuster Video and VCRs didn’t kill going to the movies, but streaming video apparently did,” explains Jean M. Twenge, the study’s lead author, in an American Psychological Association news release.
The news of how little teenagers are reading these days truly disturbed the researchers at San Diego University. “It’s so convenient to read books and magazines on electronic devices like tablets,” Twenge told Study Finds. “There’s no more going to the mailbox or the bookstore — you just download the magazine issue or book and start reading. Yet reading still has declined precipitously.”
Twenge said she believes that it is paramount that teens learn to read long-form texts even in a digital world with millions of ways to avoid doing so. Long-form reading, Twenge insists, builds critical thinking skills as well as strengthening the ability to solve complex issues.
“Think about how difficult it must be to read even five pages of an 800-page college textbook when you’ve been used to spending most of your time switching between one digital activity and another in a matter of seconds,” she empathized. “It really highlights the challenges students and faculty both face in the current era.”
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