Why Teens Have Stopped Reading

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Why have teens stopped reading? After I read Jennifer Ludden's essay on the topic, I reviewed it briefly and wrote my own theory.

Submitted: August 22, 2019

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Submitted: August 22, 2019

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Why Teens Don’t Read For Pleasure Like They Used To

In our there is a growing concern among adults about teen’s disinterest in reading. At first, people assumed that teens were just reading online, but when the average teenager is on his computer it is safe to assume that he is probably not doing recreational-reading, and if he is, it’s usually memes. No one really knows for sure exactly why reading has declined so rapidly in the past few years among teens but some of us, like Jennifer Ludden from Common Sense Media, can’t help attempting to answer the question; why don’t teens read for pleasure like they used to? In this essay, I will comment on Ludden’s views on technology and the effect it has on teens reading and then proceed to voice my own theory on why reading is not as prevalent in children as it was before.

According to Ludden, “the percent of 17-year-olds who never or hardly read tripled during this period, from 9% to 27%.” Among kids aged thirteen, reading for pleasure has declined seventeen percent, which is nearly of kids aged thirteen no longer reading for pleasure. What caused this change? Parents are quick to blame technology and kids can’t exactly disagree. The CEO of Common Sense Media claims that his children read less and less as technology is introduced to them and are more attracted to spending time on this technology thanup a book. He believes that the change is gradual, as his ten-year-old son is beginning to fall into it and his sixteen-year-old daughter is well into the age where technology is the number one source of entertainment. When Common Sense Media interviewed two teenaged girls at a bus stop on what they do in their free time, the two girls replied that they mostly watch TV shows on Netflix or Hulu. Finally, Ludden points out, when referencing an interview she had with a member of the Pew Research Center, that teenagers aren’t taking advantage of the level of knowledge at their fingertips when they’re online because of their aversion to reading. Zickuhr, a member of the PRC, says that while technology is a great opportunity for high schoolers to research and learn there are so many digital distractions (such as notification bells, ads, and Buzzfeed) that even students who set out online to do research may find themselves doing something entirely unproductive and unrelated. Teenagers who have read Ludden’s article agree with her viewpoints, summarizing what she says by claiming that the reason that children don’t read is cause have other (more interesting) ways to entertain themselves through technology. In boys, it’s usually video games, and in girls, it’s typically social media. While this is likely true, I have my own personal theories on why reading has declined, most which correlate with Ludden’s views, but some which I think are knowledge on this subject which can only be pertained by living as a teenager myself, because if anyone really knows why teens aren’t reading, it’s probably a high schooler, someone who is forced to live with Generation Z every single day, to reason with them, to understand their point of view, to work with them, and to befriend them. So, who better to attempt to answer this question than someone such as myself?

I believe that the reason children and teenagers have stopped reading for entertainment is because of their limited attention span. The lack of attention span originates from technology, but not solely from computers and phones, as many people think. The whole point of technology, if you think about it, is to make life faster. A generation growing up in a society pushing for faster is naturally going to have a shorter attention span, having been accustomed to everything being as fast as possible since the day they were born—faster transportation, faster communication, fast-food. It is estimated that the average attention span of someone in Generation Z is six seconds—and, with ADHD on the rise, less than this for some teenagers. I don’t believe that teen’s attention spans are shorter because of social media but rather that it is their short attention span combined with their natural urge to interact with people combined that has drawn them to it. Social media platforms are designed with the latest generation’s six-second attention span in mind and consequentially have been a huge success, a popular one right now being Tik Tok, where many videos run an average length of six seconds. Social media platforms with longer content, such as YouTube, are manipulated to suit the shrinking attention span of teenagers’ needs via the skip-ahead button. Conclusively, with such a short attention span, teenagers obviously cannot be expected to be attracted to reading when their attention is so limited. So this, combined with the fact that the books that teenagers are reading—because they have to, for school—are found boring and uninteresting by teens, has led teens to associate books with negative things like homework or summer reading. It would be highly unlikely at this point for teenagers to take much of an interest in reading. All this to say, while I understand wholeheartedly why society has taken an interest in trying to discover why reading rates have declined so quickly over the past few years, I think that the answer lies right in front of our technological society’s eyes.


© Copyright 2019 Ava Rose Weisberg. All rights reserved.

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