Helping Youth Unplug From the Media Hive Mind

If you want to see today's youth squirm, then ask them to go media-free for 24 hours. The World Unplugged, a new global study of media and university students, by the International Center for Media & the Public Affairs, in partnership with the Salzberg Academy on Media & Global Change, confirmed that college students are "addicted" to their mp3 players, cell phones, social media, and other forms of digital technology.

The study asked 1,000 college students from around the world (10 countries, 5 continents) to "abstain from using all media for a full day." After the 24 hours, students reported on their experience, and how successful they were in maintaining their media fast. Some of the discoveries from the study include:
  • Students are definitely addicted to their media. They exhibit anxiety, cravings & other withdrawal symptoms when separated for a period of time.
  • Students see digital technology as an essential extension of themselves & their main tool for connecting with friends.
  • News finds students; they don't seek it out.
  • Some students (about 20%) had very positive experiences away from media (connecting with friends and family, having time to think & reflect, slowing down, etc.).
Read more about the study.

This study has some great lessons for us as educators, parents, activists and concerned citizens, including:
  • Students need help building mindfulness about their media use and its impact on them. We can help by modeling a message of moderate, thoughtful media use.
  • Students need highly-developed media literacy and critical thinking skills, so that they can exert control and limits over their media, rather than allow it to control them, and to ensure that they can identify accurate, credible information.
  • Technology isn't going away; it's a vital part of how students learn and communicate and needs to be integrated into their education in ways that are beneficial.
  • The way students "ingest" news and information is changing, so if we want to reach them, we need to adapt and anticipate, both in content and format.
  • Students need time unplugged from media (whether they want it or not). Building a sense of wonder and reverence for the natural world is an essential tool for freeing students from the media hive-mind and giving them time to think, reflect, breathe, and notice.
~ Marsha

Image courtesy of paul_irish via Creative Commons.

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