For those raised in the information age, life without the internet is no life at all. It is often a primary focus of a teen’s day (75% of teens are online several times per day) and an important means by which they communicate with the world and take in new information. While information can be found in various sources across the internet, an overwhelming majority of teens and pre-teens tend to gather their information from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Unfortunately, Facebook is not known as a credible source for news. The recent outbreak of “fake news” has hit social media sites particularly hard, as these types of platforms are set up to propagate information at record speed regardless of source or content. In addition, teens are particularly bad at discriminating between real and fake news. According to a recent study out of Stanford, 82% of surveyed middle-schoolers couldn’t distinguish between ads and real news on a website, highlighting the need to teach students media literacy and proper research skills.
We live in an age of interruption. Ping – you have a text message. Ping – you have a new email. Ping – you have a Facebook friend request. Ping – you have a match on your online dating app. Ping-ping-ping, all day long.
A recent Gallup poll found that more than 50 per cent of Americans who own smartphones keep their phone near them “almost all the time during waking hours”. Over 50 per cent say check their smartphone at least several times an hour and 11 per cent say they check it every few minutes. And that’s just what they’re aware of and admit to – I would not be surprised if the real frequency and intensity is much higher.
Until relatively recently in our technological history we did not have a lot of content coming to our devices. Now, we have texts, all kind of notifications and what seems like an endless stream of both personal and work emails. And it’s not just our phones. How many times have you been at your computer working on something when you get an email notification? And of those instances, how often did you stop what you’re doing to look at your email, realised that it was not that important and returned to your work – after taking a few minutes to remind yourself where you were and what your train of thought was?
At this point, it should be painfully clear to everyone that we need to be worried about the interruptions economy. What value do interruptions provide, under what conditions, and what are their costs? A little ping may seem innocuous, but there is cumulating evidence that the cost of an interruption is higher than we realise, and of course given the sheer number of interruptions, their combined effect can very quickly become substantial.