“Those aged 8 to 18 spend more than 7.5 hours a day with such devices [smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device], compared with less than 6.5 hours five years ago, when the study was last conducted. And that does not count the 1.5 hours that youths spend texting, or the half-hour they talk on their cellphones. And because so many of them are multitasking — say, surfing the internet while listening to music — they pack on average nearly 11 hours of media content into that 7.5 hours.” -Tamar Lewin (NY Times), referring to research conducted in 2005 and in 2010 by the Kaiser Family Foundation (bare in mind, figures have probably risen again since 2010).
So here I am, sitting at Panizzi, drinking coffee, researching this very topic of media multitasking. I have 7 safari tabs, a one note window, and a powerpoint window open, whilst checking my phone constantly. I am not talking to anybody, yet I am surrounded by people (lets just say its because I don’t know anybody sitting near me). In this instance, along with in a lot of other instances, my technology has my full attention.
American linguistic anthropologist and director of UCLA’s Centre on Everyday Lives of Families, Elinor Ochs, is a person who has recently come to my attention during my research for this weeks topic. She (alongside Tamar Kremer-Sadlik as well as other contributors) recently carried out a 4 year study of 32 modern US families, looking at the ‘home, work, and relationships in middle-class Americans’. Their book, titled ‘Fast-Forward Family’, discusses the impact of technology in the Family environment, and also looks at the idea of multitasking gadgets.
A significant time of day that is discussed in this book is when the children and parents reunite again in the afternoon after school and work. ‘We saw that when the working parent comes through the door, the other spouse and the kids are so absorbed by what they’re doing that they don’t give the arriving parent the time of day’, says Ochs, also explaining, ‘we also saw how difficult it was to penetrate the chill’s universe’. (cited by Wallis in TIME Magazine).
This is interesting, and extremely relevant to how media multitasking may cause us to become disconnected from one another. Wallis discusses the fact that media multitasking is not only a result of our attachment to our devices, but also because of our extremely busy schedules. She concludes her article with the idea of older generations teaching by example, and encouraging their kids and others of the younger generations to unplug from their devices, spend some time in the company of physical human beings, and to show them that theres life beyond the screen.
I agree with this completely, however people of this younger age must decide for themselves that taking a break, or cutting down on their media usage and amount of media multitasking is for the better. The quality of social interactions with both family and friends once you have cut out technology (usually) is of a much higher quality, and once generation M realises this, hopefully their hours of media usage per day may be reduced. Perhaps this won’t occur until they are older, but lets cross our fingers and toes that the figures above won’t further increase in the coming years.
The Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010, Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8-18 year olds, Kaiser Family Foundation, Washington D.C., <http://www.kff.org/entmedia/mh012010pkg.cfm>
Lewin, Tamar 2010, ‘If you’re kids are awake, they’re probably online’, New York Times, 20 January, viewed 20 September, <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/education/20wired.html>
Ochs, E & Kremer-Sadlik, T 2013, Fast forward family: home, work and relationships in middle class America, University of California Press, Berkeley, <http://site.ebrary.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/lib/uow/docDetail.action?docID=10631868>
Willis, Claudia 2006, ‘The multitasking generation’, Time magazine, 19 March, viewed 20 September, <http://www.fritzhubbard.org/words/The_Multitasking_Generation.pdf>