Reaching youth: Will on-line be the only way?

An almost unbelievable finding from a new Kaiser Family Foundation study: Other than time in school, the average American kid spends almost all of his or her waking time using a smart phone, computer, television, or some other electronic device. My jaw dropped to learn that  kids are on these devices 7.5 hours a day (up from 6.5 hours only five years ago). And as Tamar Lewin points out in her New York Times article on the study, because young people so often do two electronic things at once (e.g., texting while watching TV), it’s actually closer to 11 hours a day.

A good question for intervention programs that work with young people is: How do we respond to an almost exclusively on-line world? It seems like we should be adapting all of the programming we do with young people to reach them where they spend most of their time. We are seeing a seismic shift in how kids spend their time, and where they get information. The challenge for youth development and risk prevention programs is to develop an on-line presence that gets kids information “where they live.” In particular, we may need to familiar with social networking and how to use it to reach young people.


  1. Karl says:

    Yes, and another project beginning at Cornell is looking at text messaging programs to combat obesity. So this does seem to be an emerging approach that we should learn more about.

  2. Myra Sabir says:

    Probably not the only way, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a good way (think of your reach!), especially as a first contact. So much is coming at them that online is a good way for them to screen for what they may want to engage further…. Great blog, dude.

  3. nancy potter says:

    Sahara Bryne, CU Comm Arts, has done some fascinating research with iphones etc and has helped CCE Psrenting Educators learn more about social networking technology — i suggest checking out the connection on the CCE Parenting in Context website.

    Project Look Sharp, a national initiative of Dr Cyndy Schiebe et al at Ithaca College, works on media literacy and is a valuable resource as a researcher and educator. BTW, Cyndy did her PhD with John Condry, HD at CU.

    • Karl says:

      Thanks, Nancy! For folks who are interested, the Parenting in Context website can be found at:

      And Project Look Sharp is indeed a great resource; here is their web page

      On that page, among other useful things, are a set of easy-to-read fact sheets, including: “12 Basic Ways to Integrate Media Literacy and Critical Thinking into Any Curriculum,” “Key Questions to Ask When Analyzing Media Messages,” and “Evalutating Websites.” All would be interesting for some extension audiences.

  4. John Eckenrode says:

    Great topic. Hard to keep up with the newest electronic ways teens are connecting, but some program developers are using these technologies to reach kids. For example, see a recent brief posted on the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence website by Deb Levine on using new media to promote sexual health:

    Includes a reference to programs like SEXINFO that is a text messaging program for teens. So some data are beginning to emerge about the effectiveness of such approaches.


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