Many parents say that electronic and digital devices significantly impact their children’s lives. A new survey finds that these gadgets have contributed not only to a decrease in reading, but also physical activity, ability to concentrate, and time spent with family.
The 2010 Kids and Family Reading Report released last week surveyed more than 1 thousand children (ages 6 to 17) and their parents, examining attitudes regarding reading books for fun. The study was conducted by Scholastic, a global children’s publishing, education, and media company, with help from the marketing and strategic research consulting firm, Harrison Group.
The report finds that the time kids spend reading books for fun is decreasing, while their interest in going online and using a cell phone to text or talk is on the rise. However, nearly 90 percent of parents said reading books for fun is extremely or very important in giving kids time away from technology.
“All the kids want to do is play video games. Nobody wants to read books anymore,” said a father of a 10-year-old boy in the report.
The study also reveals that a quarter of the children surveyed believe texting with friends counts as reading. Of course, most parents disagreed, as less than 10 percent thought that texting counted as reading.
“I think a lot of kids whose parents do not oversee them will have a problem staying focused on literature because it doesn’t have the same instant gratification kids are used to with today’s electronics,” said another father quoted in the report.
“Clearly there is a big role for parents and teachers to play in helping kids become better critical thinkers today starting at an early age given that the study found that among children age 9 to 11, nearly half believe everything they read online,” said Scholastic’s Chief Academic Officer Francie Alexander in a press release.
If these gadgets (video games, cell phones, and television) are to blame for the decrease in kids’ interest in reading, children say that another device could perhaps pique their interest, as many responded that they would read more if they had access to eBooks. While only 25 percent of the kids surveyed say they have read a book on a digital device, more than half are interested in doing so.
Choice appears to be a significant factor in cultivating an appetite for reading. The study reveals that kids are more likely to read when they can select the material, with nine out of ten children responding that they are more apt to finish books they choose themselves. Ninety percent of parents also recognize the power of choice in influencing more reading.
Parents responded that they use a variety of tactics to encourage more reading, such as making sure there are interesting books at home, limiting the amount of time spent using technology, and suggesting books their kids might like.
While nearly 20 percent of parents said electronic devices contributed to a decrease in their kids’ ability to concentrate, time spent doing schoolwork, desire to use imagination, and critical thinking skills, not every parent believed that technology had a negative impact.
“I think technology helps my daughter learn to read. She can pick out a lot of new words on the websites she plays games on,” said a Pennsylvania mother of a six-year-old girl in the report.
The report also quoted another parent who believed that “electronic devices are the way of the future. Kids who were denied access to such technologies will find themselves severely disadvantaged and behind the times.”
Despite the growing lure of technology, however, the report found that many kids still favored printed books. Two-thirds of respondents ages 9 to 17 said they will continue to seek out books printed on paper even if eBooks were available.