Books are so 20th century.
A new study of American teenagers and their reading habits finds that a third haven’t read a book — in hardcopy or on a device like a Kindle — in the past year.
Researchers from San Diego State University took a look at data from four decades of a “nationally-based lifestyle survey studying teens,” StudyFinds.com reports. In total, more than a million teens provided information.
Of course, what the researchers found is that digital media of the 21st century has had an enormous impact on the lives of young Americans.
“The meteoric rise of internet-based activities cannot be understated: between social media, texting, gaming, and surfing the web, the average high school senior spent six hours a day online in 2016 — double the time from a decade earlier. Eighth graders (4 hours a day) and tenth graders (5 hours a day) didn’t lag far behind,” the report finds.
In the early 1990s, a third of 10th graders read the daily newspaper; that number had dropped to just 2% by 2016. What’s more, back in the late 1970s, 60% of 12th graders read a book or magazine almost daily, but just 16% had the same reading habits in 2016.
The study had some other interesting findings. Teen viewership of the boob tube — whether standard TV fare or movies — has plunged as well. “Twenty-two percent of eighth graders reported watching five or more hours of TV a day in the 90s; only 13 percent watched an equivalent amount by 2016.”
Jean M. Twenge, the study’s lead author, said the findings are odd since reading is now so simple. No more schlepping to the library or the book store, just click a link and boom, you’ve got a book to read.
“It’s so convenient to read books and magazines on electronic devices like tablets,” Twenge said in an American Psychological Association news release. “There’s no more going to the mailbox or the bookstore — you just download the magazine issue or book and start reading. Yet reading has still declined precipitously.”
Twenge suggests that today’s teens are no less curious or intelligent than previous generations. Many simply don’t have experience delving into long-form texts. Learning to do so is imperative, she argues, as it lays the groundwork for developing critical thinking skills and understanding 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 empathizes. “It really highlights the challenges students and faculty both face in the current era.”