The Internet in 2020: the Pew-Elon experts survey, edition V


The folks at Pew Internet (aka the Pew Internet & American Life Project) produce terrific research on what Americans do online. They have a visitor-friendly website teeming with information about Teens, Broadband, Health, Social Networking, Mobile, Technology User Types and the Digital Divide – and those are just the popular topics. Their work is a boon to my students, who have no source anything like Pew for Canadian data (with the partial exception of Statistics Canada and its Canadian Internet Users Survey, which is still very limited in its scope). Continue reading

Dumb things you can do with smartphones (1)


or not…


Personal messaging, king of the classroom

On campuses from sea to shining sea, it’s that time again. Your children are in a classroom somewhere, staring intently into the iPad you bought to improve their minds. You fondly imagine them looking up course terminology in Wikipedia while they listen to lectures, take notes and flip through coursekits. My kid, the multitasker, one step closer to law school thanks to Steve Jobs.

Dream on, sucker. Your kid’s on Facebook, not Wikipedia… or whatever messaging platform they prefer for keeping in touch with all their friends, all the time, no matter what.


LT, shown here using the Skyward grip, keeps the gf's happy with her lightning response times


The inappropriate use of mobile phones and other digital devices is gaining attention. Last week FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski counselled a back-to-school gathering of students to be “moderate with digital media.” He cited research according to which the average teenager consumes 11 hours of media content a day, and sends a text every 10 minutes he or she is awake (reported by NYT; pdf of speech here). Genachowski mentioned the dangers of texting while driving, as well as less lethal practices associated with academic performance: “How many of you use the Internet to do things like check your Facebook page or play video games, which keep you from doing your school work?”

200 million: the number of text messsages Canadian mobile phone users send every day (source: CWTA)

That’s the first mistake made by well-meaning authority figures: assuming kids believe their “distractions” are actually distracting them from anything, schoolwork included. This is, after all, the age of multitasking and nobody has embraced that lifestyle choice more than teens and young adults. What they don’t know or won’t acknowledge is good research has shown convincingly that our brains don’t like multitasking. Chronic multitaskers who think they can message, compute, listen, socialize and watch TV all at once are living in a fool’s paradise, and we’ve got the brain scans to prove it. Continue reading