Parent-Teacher Alert: Teens Not Reading Books

If you think not developing and refining your sense of imagination, creativity and critical thinking skills is not harmful to your future career and overall happiness, think again.  Unfortunately, today’s young people have moved away from this regular exercise, instead choosing to fill their free time with the photos, games and chatter of social/digital media.  A new scientific study has demonstrated what many adults have suspected: Teenagers have traded in reading for mindless scrolling and swiping through dribble. Parents and teachers should be on alert to reverse this trend so that young people can gain the skills necessary to shape their futures in meaningful and productive ways. For the short-term, there is serious concern about how digital media is adversely affecting adolescents’ ability to sit still and concentrate on long-form text–a skill that is imperative for succeeding in college.


Teens spend less time reading, more time on digital media

One of every three teenagers has not read a book for pleasure in a year, study says

If you can’t remember the last time you saw a teenager reading a book, newspaper or magazine, you’re not alone. In recent years, less than 20 percent of U.S. teens report reading a book, magazine or newspaper daily for pleasure, while more than 80 percent say they use social media every day, according to research

Other findings

Use of digital media increased substantially from 2006 to 2016. Among 12th-graders, Internet use during leisure time doubled from one to two hours per day during that period. It also increased 75 percent for 10th graders and 68 percent for eighth-graders. Usage rates and increases were fairly uniform across gender, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

In comparison, 10th-graders reported a total of five hours per day and eighth-graders reported four hours per day on those three digital activities. And all that time in the digital world is seriously degrading the time they spend on more traditional media…

A steep decline in reading

The decline in reading print media was especially steep. In the early 1990s, 33 percent of 10th-graders said they read a newspaper almost every day. By 2016, that number was only 2 percent. In the late 1970s, 60 percent of 12th-graders said they read a book or magazine almost every day; by 2016, only 16 percent did. Twelfth-graders also reported reading two fewer books each year in 2016 compared with 1976, and approximately one-third did not read a book (including e-books) for pleasure in the year prior to the 2016 survey, nearly triple the number reported in the 1970s.


Journal Reference: Jean M. Twenge, Gabrielle N. Martin, Brian H. Spitzberg. Trends in U.S. Adolescents’ media use, 1976–2016: The rise of digital media, the decline of TV, and the (near) demise of print.. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 2018; DOI: 10.1037/ppm0000203