It's tempting to belittle these trends as just young people doing what young people do, but I think they add up to something far more interesting and revolutionary. For starters, I think media habits formed in youth will be retained into adulthood. Despite what parents might say, it's not just a phase.
If that's true, then we need to understand how this affects our world.
The studies cited show that year over year, more young people are each consuming more media than the previous year. It's not as if Facebook and cell phones hit, and we've arrived at a new usage pattern. This is a journey, and we're likely to continue down this road indefinitely, with teen trends becoming more extreme, and also becoming adult trends as people age.
If you follow the trends five years into the future, it appears that kids and teens will be affected by media 24/7, as they say. Nearly all kids in K-12 will wake up to music, eat breakfast while texting, social networking and watching TV. They'll listen to music and text on their way to school, then use a variety of electronic multimedia tools all day at school, including tablets.
After school, they'll gather with friends, while video-taping each other, texting with those absent and staying connected on Facebook. They'll watch TV, movies and play videogames in their spare time, while talking and texting all the while. They'll stay up way too late engaging with one screen or another. The cell phone will ring several times at night with texts from friends, which they'll wake up to answer.
Embedded in this new media-saturated world is a world of crises. Physical and emotional health will suffer, as kids will increasingly have a hard time getting enough sleep or exercise. The prospect of holding an un-augmented conversation, or spending any period of time without being plugged into the mediasphere will seem impossible, and cause anxiety.
As today's youth enter the workforce, there will be inevitable clashes with older staff with seniority, who will expect younger workers to pay attention in meetings, focus on one task at a time, and work for hours without electronic entertainment.
Schools will have a harder time convincing students that knowledge is even worth acquiring at all. Google VP Marissa Mayer expressed this notion perfectly when she said recently that "it's not what you know, it's what you can find out."
Why learn and memorize facts that are always right there on ubiquitous mobile devices? Knowledge won't matter. Nor will time, geography or privacy.
When so-called augmented reality eventually hits, it will barely be noticed. Reality is already being augmented. And for the youngest users, that augmentation can be even more real than the reality.
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