Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Newsflash: Kids Bored!

Fun Isn't Fun Enough for Teens
go to original article

The LA Times (two stories in the last two days) has been making a lot of noise about a recent poll that showed a couple of noteworthy things about teens. They don't particularly like to go to the movie theater. Their interest dwindles as they get older, and they like to multitask (see a nice graphical summary here)

With regard to the last bit, it seems to have brought up a little concern about the negative impact it might be having on our
Another concern for adults is multi-tasking. For the most part, experts have not looked closely at how teens' and young adults' thinking skills, especially when it comes to homework, may be affected by what one software executive has dubbed "constant partial attention."
This is very similar to the zombie epidemic that swept America when people first started trying to do their homework and watch TV at the same time 30 years ago. Or the dip in number of intellectuals suffered in the 1920s when they started selling concessions at the theaters and people would actually attempt to eat and watch movies at the same time.

It's shocking to me that this comes up so frequently. I suppose it's because people aren't familiar with the technologies that "kids these days" are using, or something, that makes everyone so panicky and... insightless. Kids are the same now, as they have been for a bazillion years: easily distracted. This part here, hits it on the head:
"It's like being in a candy store," said Gloria Mark, a UC Irvine professor who studies interactions between people and computers. "You aren't going to ignore the candy; you are going to try it all."
Kids have always been in candy stores. Before there was the internet, there were malls (just ask Kevin Smith). And TV. There have always been places to excite kids who want to try it all.

Movie theaters used to be a place where you could try it all. Adventure, travel, love, sex, fun, friends, popcorn without butter, popcorn with butter... Maybe people are reaching for an explanation that doesn't make them look stupid for not having seen this coming all along. "Kids these days are totally unpredictable! They like to multitask! Who ever heard of that?! There was no way to plan for this!"

Texting seems to be the en vogue way for theaters to get back into the mix. Mark Cuban mentioned it in his response about the rock and roll movie theater and head of MTV films David Gale mentioned it in the second LA Times article about this same poll. Presumably, this is because it's the least disruptive way for people to use their portable devices in the middle of a quiet movie theater. The fact that phone companies will charge the same 15 dollars for unlimited text messages as they do for unlimited data transfer speaks to its popularity.

I can attest to wanting to use my phone to look up actors while in a movie, or jot down notes (to myself). A screen dimmer would definitely help the cause. But, I digress. Whether or not incorporating people's texting into movie theaters will change kids' regard for theaters remains to be seen. I don't see it competing with the flexibility of sitting at home on the internet. Unless they become internet cafes... which, come to think of it, is how they do it in Bangkok.


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