The New York Times article Wasting Time is New Divide in Digital Era presents an interesting case on the contrary. Reporting on a study conducted by The Kaiser Family Foundation, New York Times journalist Matt Richtel writes, “Children and teenagers whose parents do not have a college degree spent 90 minutes more per day exposed to media than children from higher socioeconomic families.”
From my point of view, this statistic seemed positive. More media exposure equals more information exposure. After reading the key findings from the Kaiser study, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds, I discovered more media exposure is not necessarily a good thing. 66% of light media users (3 hours per day or less) reported receiving mostly good grades (A’s and B’s) while 51% of heavy users reported receiving mostly good grades. Conversely, almost half of heavy media users reported receiving mostly fair/poor grades (C’s or below) compared to only about a quarter of light media users.
An anecdotal story reported in The New York Times article portrays the story of a 12-year-old boy with a love for technology that is keeping him up all night. Even in a home with a pinched pocketbook, technology is abundant – two laptops, an Xbox 360, a Nintendo Wii, and a personal cell phone for the 12-year-old. On the weekends he will stay up until 7am playing video games, connecting with friends on Facebook and watching videos on YouTube. He credits his all-night media binges as the reason he is tired on Monday mornings. If lack of sleep is any predictor of poor academic performance, then he is no exception to the rule, with a grade-point average barely over 1.0.
As any good researcher knows, correlation does not mean causation. Media usage does not cause poor academic performance. Furthermore, quantity does not always mean quality. Access to information can be a tool used to close the achievement gap as long as students are using it productively and in moderation.
Rest assured, I will not abandon my library-influenced belief that access to information is a good thing. As we continue into this age of information overload, it is important to remember to use judgment (or parental enforcement) when consuming media so that is a benefit rather than a hindrance.