Among those of us old enough to remember (and admit it), there was once an expression and a song accusing video of killing the radio star. Now, smartphones and tablets are being accused of killing the love of reading. This is understandable.
If you look at a group of kids, it’s far more likely that you’ll find them looking at a device screen than burying their noses in books. But what do the teen statistics actually say? Are those teen gadgets actually encouraging kids reading habits?
For decades, teens have considered movies, video games and books the perfect places to escape. When real life was being a pain in the backside, those were perfect ways to forget all about it. That said, of all those options, the one that was most readily available when on the go was a book. Even when portable video game consoles came along, they were still quite rare next to the availability of a simple paperback. Books were affordable and they could go anywhere.
With the amount that teens use their smartphones, you’d think that taking away their battery packs would be all that would be needed to run their favorite devices out of charge and have them turning to words on the printed page. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Many see this as a potentially disturbing trend. That said, some teen statistics have indicated that adolescents simply aren’t interested in reading. Not books and not much of anything else for that matter. By the end of the day, they will have read a large number of total words – probably more than previous generations – however, those words have been limited to very short sentences. Character-limited tweets, texts made up of little more than a word or two and an emoji, brief social media posts and article introductions or excerpts. In the majority of cases, nothing will be read beyond an initial paragraph.
Kids are still reading. Right through the tween years, kids are devouring entire series of hefty novels, from Harry Potter to Twilight and from The Hunger Games to the Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit can be finished in a short weekend.
But when those same kids turn twelve or thirteen, the books are being set aside for the most part. In the case of boys, their attention during their free time is diverted primarily toward computer games and sports. For girls, their friendships become their new obsessions.
Regardless of whether or not they have battery packs to keep their smartphones charged, their interest just doesn’t seem to be in books anymore. In fact, smartphones aren’t typically where teens turn to kill time. Instead, mobile devices do provide some entertainment, but they are also their preferred means by which to have a social life. Cutting them off doesn’t encourage them to read, it mainly just stops them from contacting friends.