Monday, February 1, 2010

Media time, and the ‘iGeners’

Here we are at St. Paul's trying to expand the way we communicate with people. In this case we are using the parish web site for our Blogs. As I have already noted, Pope Benedict himself urged clergy around the world to follow his lead in this area! Imagine!

Well now comes a study confirming what we already knew or suspected: that you can get too much of a good thing. According to a new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, (American) youths between 8 and 18 spend an average of 7½ hours a day using media devices - not counting the 1½ hours they spend talking on their cell-phones. They are also multi-tasking within the media usage, eg texting while watching TV or listening to music. The result is that they cram “nearly 11 hours of media content into that seven and a half hours.”

“The study’s findings shocked its authors, who had concluded in 2005 that use could not possibly grow further….. . It found, moreover, that heavy media use is associated with several negatives, including behavior problems and lower grades. “

The New York Times invited commentary by a number of experts around the U.S. One that caught my eye was by Dr. Larry Rosen a psychology professor in California. He said the findings of the study corroborated what he himself has been finding in his research. He coined the term ‘iGeners’, and noted that media is critical for socialization and communication. However, read this:

I have also found that this consumption of media was predictive of psychological and behavioral problems … . What’s more, parenting style was directly related to healthy online behavior: Parents who set clear limits and boundaries but did so with warmth and consultation with their children, had children who were less consumed with media, possessed higher self-esteem, were less depressed and had better relationships with their parents.

That’s the part that really caught my eye. Not just that there is a point where a good thing becomes problematic, but that parents can intervene wisely and effectively. Clear limits and boundaries, set with warmth and consultation. The outcomes are wonderful.

Parents and youths alike, have a good look. You have probably wondered whether there is a problem with high media usage. There is. Parents, you have wondered whether you can do anything about it, since it is everywhere and after all you have funded most of it. You can do something about it, and it sounds like you probably need to.
Couple of ideas: First: talk about including some really rich nourishment in their Internet time. At our house, we have been receiving two powerful e-letters on a regular basis. One is from Fr. Henri Nouwen’s website. Fr. Nouwen died a few years ago, and his followers send out these spiritual gems from his writings. They are short, to the point, and never syrupy. You go to the website (, and sign up for the emails right on the home page.

If you would like to add something equally well written, with a feminine perspective, Sr. Joan Chittister is for you. She is well known world-wide, and like Fr. Nouwen has written a number of great books. Super writer, lots to think about, never trivial. Go to the website ( and again sign up for the eletter on the main page.

Second, develop a collaborative approach to the issue of media time. More about that soon.

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