Over the past 20 years there has been a digital revolution, so most homes now have internet, mobile phones and specialist television channels which are geared towards young learners. This can be both an opportunity and a threat, depending on how these information sources are handled by the parents and utilised by the teacher. What is clear, as statistics point out, is that children are open to far more distractions than their parent's generation. According to an annual survey conducted in 2009 by Childwise research agency, the overall time spent in front of screens by 5-16 year-olds in Britain was nearly six hours a day. The survey of 1,800 children found that they were spending 2.7 hours per day watching television, 1.5 hours on the internet, and 1.3 hours on games consoles.
A casualty of this amount of screen time has been reading, as stated in the survey, with 0.6 hours per day on average. The number of children reading for pleasure in their own time has fallen from 80% in 2008 to 75% in 2009. In particular, older boys are resistant to reading, with 42% of 11-16 year-olds saying they never read books for pleasure. The survey reveals a picture of children growing up in a youth culture that revolves around screens whether they are used for playing games, watching television or chatting on websites. Half of these 11-16 year olds use the internet at home every day, with a typical session lasting one hour and 45 minutes. Again according to the results of the survey by Childwise research agency, more than a third have internet access in their own bedrooms, and even though parents might have hoped that this would help with homework, it is much more likely to be used for games, sending messages or watching video clips or television programmes.
Results of a similar American study: It would be easy to dismiss all this digital activity as being of no instructional use; however, the exposure of these youngsters to the huge world offered by the internet and documentary television, while scary to some, offers the promise of ultimate 'home-learning'.
We can consider this form of passive learning as still positive because it engages the brain. Examples such as the latest Hollywood blockbuster require concentration to follow the plot even for action movies. The young learner may follow the developments in the latest gadget, so this can be considered a form of passive science education. Even hours of internet chatting with friends can be viewed in a positive light because it builds up relationships and basic communication skills.
The exposure of young learners to so much human culture through television and internet, often seemingly poorly supervised by parents, will lead to the creation of a new generation of young adults. These youngsters may not have the emotional maturity their parents had when they were their age, yet they appear to be thinking and seeing the world as grown-up adults, with all that entails. The digital revolution has allowed that world to enter youngsters' bedrooms.