The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

My quest to learn the musical instrument struck a chord much greater than the beautiful sound of a perfect stroke.
I decided to learn the guitar, but I walked away learning more about life
Bella Edmondson, Staff Editor • June 19, 2024

Digital age may not be as helpful as thought

A new study by the Digital Youth Project shows that media, like the Internet and text messaging, teaches kids technological and social skills. Contrary to what many parents believe, the time teens spend on their computer and cell phone is actually teaching them valuable skills.

“I use technology more than I don’t,” said Stokes Folmar, a junior at Highland Park High School. “I spend at least four hours a day on the Internet.”

His twin sister Laurel said that life without the Internet would be harder.

“I need the computer to do 80 percent of my homework,” Laurel said.

Stokes’ and Laurel’s mother Cindy Folmar said that the Internet allows her children to do better research.

“They can find anything they want to know, and it is easier and quicker than going to the library,” Mrs. Folmar said. “They spend more time learning than looking.”

But a new book argues that technology, especially the Internet, may actually be harming young people, lowering test scores and making it more difficult for them to think deeply. Mark Bauerlein outlines many reasons why the digital age isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in his book “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future,” or “Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30.”

“I think that a few books and authors this year, including my own, have introduced a healthy note of skepticism into the digital discourse. The doubters are now part of the regular radar on the topic – not so much as authorities but as voices that merit inclusion in the discussion,” said Bauerlein in an e-mail interview.

Stokes Folmar sees that the Internet can be harmful.

“It kind of makes us dumber,” Stokes said. “For English we have to read a lot, and most students use SparkNotes. That defeats the purpose of reading the books and learning the main ideas.”

The Digital Youth Project found that youth use media to extend friendships and interests and engage in self-directed learning online. It found that adults should facilitate young peoples’ engagement with digital media, and education institutions need to keep up with the rapid changes of digital media.

Lori Stephens, an English professor at Southern Methodist University, uses a computer lab to teach her students research and writing skills. Stephens’ class uses the Internet to research credible sources. They use technology in the classroom to build critical evaluation skills by examining each student’s work as a class.

However, her classroom has not lost the importance of reading and research the traditional way, Stephens said.

“You can’t write unless you read,” Stephens said. “The quality of students’ writing reflects their reading.”

Stokes Folmar said that he does not read unless it is for school, and that text messaging hurts his writing skills.

“I catch myself not capitalizing ‘I’ or writing the letter ‘u’ instead of ‘you’,” said Stokes. “The computer always catches my spelling mistakes. So, I really don’t pay attention to my spelling errors.”

Bauerlein, who says there is no reason for young people to turn off their cell phones or cut off their e-mail accounts, gives these tips to help students maintain the tradition of reading:

• “Devote 15 minutes each morning to scanning a newspaper and reading the editorial page, the paper kind not the online kind.

• Always have a book in hand that you are in the middle of reading. When you’re on an airplane, a bus, at lunch alone or in bed at night, pull it out and get through a few pages. If it goes slowly, that’s okay.

• Make it a book you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be “Moby-Dick.” The important thing is that you maintain some relationship to books.”

Teachers fear the Internet keeps kids from visiting the library and conducting extensive research because the Internet is just one click away.

Stephens sees the Internet in a positive light.

“The Internet has encouraged reading,” said Stephens. “Students read more than they used to, but they read fewer books and more on the Internet. I don’t think overall that my students are dumbed down. They are lazier, not less intelligent than 20 years ago.”

Rebecca Quinn, an SMU sophomore majoring in Spanish, French and art history, said that the Internet sparks curiosity.

“How often has Wikipedia led you to other sites? It encourages spontaneous learning,” said Rebecca.

Crista DeLuzio, a history professor at SMU, said that she regulates the Web sites her students use as sources and requires books by historians.

Quinn said that the Internet provides simplified versions of books. She does not believe books should disappear but that the Internet should be accepted as general knowledge.

As DeLuzio regulates her classroom, she has also found herself regulating at home. She has two sons, 6 and 18 months, who are fascinated with technology. DeLuzio has made a conscious effort to instill knowledge into her sons through more than the screen.

“We have to keep them occupied. Even with someone as conscientious as myself, we’re already struggling. It’s hard,” said DeLuzio.

Bauerlein’s advice to parents is to exemplify intellectual habits.

“We old folks (I’m 49) model the wrong habits. A parent shouldn’t just say, ‘Go to your room and read a book.’ The parent has to do it too and show to the young ones that reading a book is just what responsible adults do,” said Bauerlein.

Stephens has already taken Bauerlein’s advice.

“We surround our sons with books. We read all the time,” Stephens said.

“The Dumbest Generation” calls for adults to step up and mentor while the Digital Youth Project calls for adults to join in the digital revolution.

The generations are challenged to meet in the middle.

Cindy Folmar said that the downside to her children’s generation is that they have no free time.

“They are never bored,” Mrs. Folmar said.

David Folmar, Stokes’ and Laurel’s father, said, “I wonder when the technology highway is going to stop.”

“It will never stop,” said Laurel.

“I would say that older age groups are affected by the same [technology] pressures, just not as much or as visibly,” said Bauerlein. “They grew up in a pre-computer world, and so they have many deep habits that resist the digitalization of all things.”

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