« listening to Kansas | Main | a cautionary tale »

August 9, 2006

a new survey of youth entertainment culture

An interesting LA Times poll of American kids (age 12-24) finds them bored despite a plethora of electronic entertainment devices. "'I feel bored like all the time, 'cause there is like nothing to do,' said Shannon Carlson, 13, of Warren, Ohio, a respondent who has an array of gadgets, equipment and entertainment options at her disposal but can't ward off ennui."

I like Reed Larson's idea that adolescents lack opportunities for "initiative," which he defines as voluntarily choosing a task and then planning and sustaining it over time. Kids choose their entertainment, but needn't plan or sustain it. They are supposed to sustain interest in their school projects, but they don't choose them. For Larson (a pyschologist), the lack of opportunities for "initiative" explains frequent reports of boredom. Service projects and other forms of civic engagement are important alternatives.

The LA Times poll also challenges some myths about young Americans. For example, more than twice as many said that they had voted in a real election as said they had voted for an American Idol candidate. Even accounting for some "response bias" (i.e., kids may feel that they ought to say they voted in a real election), that's still a refutation of the cliche that youth are only interested in pop culture.

August 9, 2006 1:59 PM | category: none


I agree that service projects are an important opportunity for "initiative" but it seems that so much that happens in the name of "service" are one-off events, providing them a "quick fix" to feel good about themselves and pad their college applications, but giving kids little opportunity to sustain their efforts.

The planning piece is also largely missing. Kids are willing to do service, if they're told when to show up and what they need to do. What we lack are the mechanisms to help them see how they can put together such efforts, and see them through to fruition. Supporting such efforts would go a long way toward instilling civic virtue, and may even make a few kids less bored.

August 9, 2006 3:07 PM | Comments (1) | posted by Patrick

Site Meter