Young people suffer through short spells without media tech: study

Addicted. Depressed. Irritable. Crazy.

These are just a handful of terms used by hundreds of students around the world when they attempted to spend 24 hours completely disconnected from their cellphones, computers and portable music players.

The study from the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland showed many people under 25, regardless of where they call home, can’t bear to unplug for a day if they have become accustomed to such conveniences.

“My dependence on media is absolutely sickening,” said a student from Lebanon taking part in the study, which surveyed 1,000 students in 10 countries. “I was itching, like a crackhead, because I could not use my phone,” said a U.S. respondent.

Project director Susan Moeller said more varied responses were expected, but a similar reaction was noted across the board.

“Perhaps naively, we assumed that we would find substantial differences among the students who took part in this study,” Moeller, a journalism and public policy professor at the University of Maryland, said in a news release. “After all, our partner universities come from very different regions . . . and from countries with great disparities in economic development, culture and political governance — for instance, Uganda, Lebanon and mainland China.

“But it quickly became apparent . . . that all the student responders in this study are digital natives. It was then that we realized that digital natives have no passports: if we had covered up the place name of a student’s comment we would have had no idea of the student’s nationality.”

Most of the participants were not able to reach the 24-hour mark without using their tech devices.

Sergei Golitsinski, a PhD student who worked with the research team, said many students reported the impact of technology on their lives shaped them and some felt lost without their digital ties to society.

“It was striking to us how many students around the world wrote that going without media not only severed their connections to their friends, but challenged their sense of self,” he said. “Who were they, if they weren’t plugged in? Media are not just tools for students to communicate — students reported that how they use media shapes the way others think of them and the way they think about themselves.”


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