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High School Traffic’s Take on Media Addiction


Like a student from any era, I am reminded daily of how fortunate I am to have so much technology at my disposal: “When I was in high school, we had to write every single college application by hand.” “When I was in high school, we didn’t have calculators for calculus.” I get it; the walk to school was uphill both ways—somehow.

Maren Schiffer

Yet, as we are all well aware by now, the technology boom in the last quarter-century has left its harmful effects. The New York Times this week had a piece by Tamar Lemin regarding children’s increased use of technology. Lemin said that a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that youth ages 8 to 18 spend, on average, seven and a half hours a day using smart phones, computers, televisions, etc. That’s one hour longer than my school day. The article also said that most media-users multitask (i.e. listen to an iPod while texting), increasing average media time to 11 and a half hours!

Five years ago, conductors of the study predicted that daily media consumption could not surpass six and a half hours on average, mainly because there are only so many hours in the day. But children have shot past predictions, and it is a somewhat terrifying happening. Such a high rate of media consumption is also (surprise, surprise) associated with poor behavior, poor grades in school, and obesity.

Couldn’t this increase in consumption also be associated with sleep deprivation? Media is the major outlet of procrastination, but many kids that have work to do will get it done eventually. Ironically, one student’s post on Facebook right now is “I will not procrastinate anymore!”, and at least daily, people will report in their statuses that they are pulling all-nighters due to homework. Would there be so many all-nighters without Facebook?

Furthermore, the article claimed that cellphones are now being used less for talking than for listening to or watching media.

In a place where Montecito Union students have hot pink Blackberry’s by age seven and iPhones by age 10, Santa Barbara isn’t exactly an exception to the trend. I don’t think anywhere in the U.S. can be an exception at this point, especially with social networking sites as popular as they are. Media is addicting, and access to it has been made scarily easy.

SBHS senior Elizabeth Cutbirth said, “I’m not really a technology addict, but I just bought a Mac, so I’m using the computer much more. I used to be outside more.” It’s a battle that students often struggle with: nature versus technology. It is almost impossible to use a device for its benefits without going overboard.

There has been an increased use of media for schoolwork. The days of using print sources for book reports are long gone. Senior Christy Newton brought up the fact that teachers will “accept only website sources now,” versus requiring some sources to be in print. In fact, for a recent book report, all of my sources but one were found on a Wikipedia bibliography. I then submitted the report to turnitin.com, an increasingly popular website used to prevent plagiarism.

It’s strange being part of the technology generation. I watch things change subtly year after year and recall the days when a cell phone was one of those adult privileges, like coffee or booze. And its stranger still knowing that I’m probably not at the core of the technology boom, but instead at the core of one of the first major booms.



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