I recently attended a middle school band concert. To my amazement, at least one third of the children performing in the various bands sat using their cell phones when not on stage. Astoundingly, many of these pre-teens had expensive sophisticated smartphones that enabled them to browse the Internet as well as text friends. I even noted some youths texting on stage when their instruments were not part of the performance. When it comes to electronic media, things are changing so fast that parents are lagging behind. Apparently, so too are band directors, teachers and school administrators.
In my newly-released book, Children at Risk, I note, “Today’s children and youth live in an environment inundated by endlessly proliferating types of media.” Some experts call it a “tsunami of media;” others call it “media clutter.” A new study produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation –– whose studies are among the largest and most comprehensive information available about media use among American youth –– reports that “most youth say they have no rules about how much time they can spend with TV, video games or computers.” As a result, daily media use by the nation’s 8-to-18-year-olds has increased dramatically over the past five years. Children and teens now spend the equivalent of a day’s work using their electronic devices. They are “connected” to electronic media an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes and by their common use of “media multitasking” (watching television or playing video games while texting or listening to music on an iPod) they “actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those 7½ hours.” Most alarming, seven in ten young people have a TV in their bedroom and over half have a video game console in their room.