In our constant moving world, how many of us still sit down to read a book? I’ll bet that’s a small number of us.
Most teens today have distant relationships with literature. One of the main reasons why: technology and social media.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that some teenagers have as much of a love for reading as I do. However, like me, most are susceptible to the distractions of social media and screens.
“I usually just go on my phone during my free time,” high school senior Cate Adams said.
That’s what many teens are seen doing during their spare time. Instead of picking up a book and stimulating their minds, we see blank stares at screens for hours on end.
According to TIME Magazine, a study from the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture finds that teen use of traditional media has dropped off, while time spent texting, scrolling through social media, and using other forms of digital media continues to increase.
In other words, teens spend more of their time with TikTok or Instagram instead of with Austen or Hemingway.
“There’s no lack of intelligence among young people, but they do have less experience focusing for longer periods of time and reading long-form text,” Jean M. Twenge, PhD, author of the book iGen, and professor of psychology at San Diego State University said.
Much of this is related to the amount of time and critical thinking that reading requires. Teens would rather get short bursts of entertainment every few seconds.
“I think social media has better and faster entertainment, which is why it attracts us,” high school senior Maya Mhatre said. “We are used to a fast-paced environment which is why we are losing focus when we read.”
Reading causes teens to slow down and take the time to truly digest what they are reading, while social media just provides a mindless scroll ‘n stare process.
“Scrolling through social media takes very little energy and is very entertaining, whereas reading takes more effort and time,” high school senior Drew Clune said.
An important aspect of social media that loosens the bond between modern teens and reading is the versatility that it presents.
“We have the ability to control what we want to see. We can talk to our friends and everything we see is either chosen by us or tailored to our interests,” Adams said.
Teens can pull out their phones and talk to their friends, play Fortnite, or catch up on the latest Kardashian family drama, all with one tap. On the other hand, reading a book presents teens with an activity that cuts them off from all information sources and forces them to sit still for a set period of time.
Even Wilton High School librarians Tara Peterson and Kenneth Dunaj noticed this trend.
“There are a lot more options for the time that they do have, and I do think, with the free time that they have, a lot of teens are choosing social media over picking up a book to read,” Peterson said.
Despite this continual shift towards screens, both Peterson and Dunaj utilize a multitude of techniques within the LLC and their FLIGHT classes to get students engaged.
“We really put a lot of effort in this year to look at what our readers like, what is highly reviewed, and what meets the Wilton Public Schools collection policy,” Dunaj said when asked about how to get students engaged with literature.
As many Wilton High School students have seen this year, the LLC boasts many posters and displays to highlight book recommendations and hopefully get students interested in reading.
“They have an author spotlight every month and a genre spotlight every month to try and pique students’ interests,” Peterson said.
The methods that the WHS LLC, and many others, have adopted demonstrate the lengths at which people will go to help teens understand the remarkable hobby that is reading.
While many teens may not believe so, they’re missing out on something extraordinary. Being able to travel to your own secret oasis for just a short period of time is a truly incredible experience one should overlook.