Originally Published: April 16, 2012 1:16 p.m.
Children in the United States, age 8-18, are now spending an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes each day using entertainment media devices, according to a report by The Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research group.
That's more than 53 hours a week that our children are staring into computer screens, cell phones, iPods and video games.
The report goes on to say that because American children spend so much of that time 'media multitasking' (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those 71/2 hours.
When I read these findings my first thought was how much personal growth a child could experience if he or she reallocated that 53 hours a week into learning a musical instrument, a second language or a specialized skill or trade.
My second thought was how important it is that we teach children to invest time into building and strengthening personal relationships, especially lasting family relationships.
With all the high tech communication tools available today for us to stay connected, I fear society is at risk of being more personally disconnected. Excessive cyberspace interactions can stifle or suffocate the kinds of personal, shared experiences children need to build communities and lasting, meaningful relationships.
I was recently interviewed by Valerie Davisson, author of the book "Saturday Salon: Bringing Conversation and Community Back Into Our Lives." Davisson believes technology is eroding real, meaningful conversation because up to 80 percent of our communication is non-verbal. Without facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language Davisson says more than half of what we are trying to say is getting lost in the online process.
She cites the following:
~ According to recent census and Gallup poll data, since the 1960s, families sharing meals together dropped over 40 percent.
~ 37 percent of those who do eat together are doing so while plugged into the TV, iPods, or texting on their phones.
~ Nielsen data indicates that our individual time spent online is up 49 percent, with social network sites, email and blogs taking the lion's share of our time.
All this spells trouble for our already struggling family units. I don't care how HD your device is, there is no digital substitute for real face-to-face, eye-to-eye, voice-to-voice, spirit-to-spirit communication.