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The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future

Thursday January 2009


Mark Bauerlein Professor, Emory University

Over the last 20 years, the time teenagers spend reading books and newspapers has plummeted. In leisure hours, printed pages have given way to a menu of digital diversions—social networking, text messaging, video games, blogs . . . What is the consequence? Not only a deteriorating intellectual atmosphere for the young, but also an extraordinary new social formation. Call it “Peer Absorption 24/7.”

With so many tools and networks in play, 18-year-olds can communicate with one another all the time—on the bus, at the mall, at the dinner table, in their bedrooms. But at a significant cost: there is no more limit to youth social life, no place of retreat. So teens put enormous time and energy into their personal profile page and daily blog—most of it addressed to their buddies and classmates.

This development endows the tools with a deep social meaning—a medium of peer pressure—that needs to be combated.