Wired youth should stay plugged in

The revolution will be digitized.

A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that children now spend more than 53 hours a week on the computer, watching T.V. and playing video games. Despite alarmed reactions from experts, this excessive exposure to media can actually be beneficial.

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A simple online search with the keywords “computer time kids” yields thousands of results of tips and guides for parents on how to limit their children’s computer and video game activity. This concern, although legitimate, is a little bit of an overreaction. Spending too much time playing video games or watching T.V. might lead to health problems from a lack of exercise, but does not necessarily cause degraded mental capacity or personal relationships.

Computers, even when used by children for games and social networking, offer critical-thinking challenges to young children while teaching them basic interactive and organizational skills. The simple act of learning how to manage your own farm in FarmVille can give a child valuable logic and management skills.

A skill often overlooked by older generations, computer literacy is extremely valuable both in adolescence and adulthood. Hiring employees who have excellent computer skills has become an industry standard in nearly every profession.

More important than basic computer skills is the art of multitasking. When children listen to music on their computers while simultaneously playing a video game and watching sports highlights, parents often worry their children are being overloaded with information. This “overload,” however, trains a young mind to process multiple tasks at one time. Instead of playing simple games and running around in the mud like children of the past, the youth of today exercise their minds in a massive, limitless and always-changing playground: the Internet.

The Internet acts not only as an analytical tool but also as an ultra-efficient and inexpensive disseminator of information. While spending hours browsing the web,

adolescents can explore and research every fantastical whim. Even at the university level, many students would rather give up on something entirely than put in the effort to look it up in an encyclopedia. However, a quick Wikipedia or YouTube search is all it takes to quickly quench curiosity. If the youth are being drowned in a digital sea of technology and information, chances are they know much more about the world than the children of yesteryear.

And though some would also argue excessive Internet usage decreases the quality of communication and personal relationships, the truth is children would communicate even less if the digital medium was removed.

“I used to talk to my grandmother on the phone about once every couple months, but ever since she got a laptop she e-mails me every week to find out how I’m doing,” said, Justin Leeka, a sophomore majoring in biological sciences.

Although a handwritten letter or a personal meeting would be very desirable, it is anything but practical. Computers allow young children to talk to their friends and family in a very efficient way; this overall increase in communication has helped improve existing relationships as well as foster new ones.

Being exposed to a variety of digital information and media throughout the day can foster critical thinking, useful computer skills and valuable insight into the outside world. The only reason parents say they “always used to play outside as a kid” is that they never had any fascinating technology to play inside with.

Gokul Agrawal is a senior majoring in business administration.