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The Guardian and BBC are both reporting on the growth of 'screen culture' for young people.

The Guardian and BBC are both reporting on the growth of 'screen culture' for young people.

In particular, it is pointed out that the numbers of kids reading for pleasure is down from 84% - 74% in the two years from 2006-2008, while socialising on the internet and playing videogames are apparently big winners.

I must say, it first occured to me to wonder how much of this trend can be attributed to the end of the Harry Potter series. I also wonder if the growth of communications use is actually just about multi-tasking facilitated by access to phones or webtools that let kids have easier access to Facebook etc. That is to say, doing the same things kids were always doing but it is easier to text or have an instant message client running at the same time.

Anyway, what really worries me about our analysis of these numbers is that they are never accompanied by any analysis of the quality or propriety of what is being consumed.

Reading is down, and videogames are up. We assume disaster, because we believe reading is inherently good and videogames and the net are at best a waste of time and at worst morally damaging.

But surely the time has come to acknowledge that reading is crucial and irreplaceable by any other media, reading total rubbish is not. Playing certain videogames probably will be a waste of time, while others will stretch the mind and the imagination.

So, coverage of the amount of time spent on reading for pleasure or playing games or watching TV is important. However, without a more evaluative analysis of what is being actually consumed on the different media, it is always more likely to promote a panic which may or may not be justified...


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