Information Overload: Do Kids Manage Their Media Better?

etv-pbs-logo.jpgIn an era of information overload, here’s a helpful NPR podcast called On the Media that tidily wraps up topics into a weekly show.

Media mavens are always on the lookout for useful nuggets of info bundled into finite formats so we don’t get overwhelmed…

This mornings’ Ad Age article echoes, “Human attention, unlike technology, has limits. There are only so many digital inputs we can realistically pay quality attention to in our busy, multitasked lives. Demands for our attention have outstripped our finite supply of time.” Yup, hard to make sense of all the data out there…Marketing strategist Steve Rubel who wrote the piece, warns of an imminent crash-n-burn:

“In-boxes, smart phones and IM windows are overflowing. Always-on connections, mobile devices and new publishing tools have expanded the media we consume to include content from peers…New networks and platforms for participation are sprouting up and going supernova overnight, with no end in sight.” What if we preventively look to YOUTH for some of these answers?

Can we avoid a ‘market correction’ shades of a 1929 nosedive or dot com techno-bust? Youth voraciously digest media and STILL somehow seem to exercise more restraint than “addicted” adults overly dependent on their mobile devices and gizmos.

No question youth EXPOSURE to media is overwhelming in itself. (Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest survey released today shows parents seem to be getting a grip on their kids’ media intake…But I ask, what about their own?)

With all the talk about media saturation and a Totally Wired world, it’s intriguing that drug culture euphemisms like “Crackberry” float around the corporate/adult blogosphere about Blackberry tethered techies hooked up to their media like an IV drug of choice flowing through their veins.

This behavioral quirk didn’t enter the media lexicon out of nowhere, gang…It eludes to the “who’s controlling who” technology question, bringing a whole new meaning to ‘opiate of the masses.’ Perhaps children now need to teach parents some self-control, healthy limitations, and universal moderation this round, n’est ce pas? Hmn…

No sweeping generalizations here, just a few observations of note on the media management front:

Many kids are able to ingest their digital media nuggets as tasty morsels instead of the ‘portion distortion’ some adults gorge upon, tanking up with “too much of a good thing.”

In my house, for example, my tween gets enamored in fits and starts with media’s ‘Next Great Thing’ then, like a pup with a new toy, she plays with it for awhile, puts it down and goes back to her primary modus operandi.

I’ve also seen the media channel surfing dynamic to a degree that makes me wonder if we’re creating a generation of twitch-n-tap ADD kids…(sheesh…let it linger on a station for longer than a sentence fergoshsakes!)

Still…youth ‘tweets’ on Twitter answer ‘what are you doing right now’ with a post, quick browse, and ping back for fun…whereas I’ve seen adults fixated for hours, amazed at the global twitterverse, voyeuristically mapping every bit of minutiae.

Why is this so?

Are adults so enamored and sucked in by ‘what’s possible’ that they lose kids’ ability to remain nonplussed?

Do youth that were raised on media take new applications for granted, viewing them as just another ‘cool tool’?

Seems adults often grapple with how to harness, utilize and maximize media power instead of just enjoying it as a supplemental form of entertainment…

THIS is what we perhaps need to learn from kids…

Rubel’s Ad Age article talked about blogger burnout, techno-frenzy, and the inevitable ‘dot bomb’ blast zone of data-driven demons self-imploding.

I admit, I’m probably ONE of those “information overload” types he was speaking of…so passionate about purpose and teeming with relevant research pinging in my brain that I lose sight of waking hours, with self-imposed deadlines! (yeah, scary, I know)

Rubel also cited one of my own NextNow collaboratory thinktank pals, PodTech ‘Scoble Show’ host, former MicroSoft “Geek Blogger,” techno evangelist, twitter afficionado and author Robert Scoble…

Rubel wrote, “He used to spend three hours a day reading 1,000 RSS feeds and sharing the best bits. However, even he is cutting back: He has reduced his feed diet and now mostly answers e-mail when he’s on planes and away from the web.”

Um, yeah. Robert Scoble happens to value his personal life and family relationships and is going through a bit of ‘self-correcting’ to ensure this media world doesn’t eat him alive.

Frankly, I say, ya gotta love that in a guy!

In fact, when a handful of us sat in Doug Engelbart’s living room on New Years Day 2006 to watch Robert show us the media power and internet synergy of RSS blogging feeds, I remember thinking, “whoa, NO WAY is this sustainable”—there’s no way I can, will, or even WANT to keep up with the level of data streaming into Robert’s handheld device!

I expressed this to Robert that day too. When I told him about Guy Kawasaki’s blog that had just gone live the day prior, he used it as an example for the group to show how the interconnectivity and viral power of the medium spread like wildfire.

Frankly, I was so intimidated by the overwhelming information overload watching the commentary, trackbacks and pings projected on the wall at rapidfire speed (in real time, live demo-style) that it kept me out of entering the blogging arena for an additional nine months prior to the birth of this Shaping Youth blog!

I kept asking him, “But Robert, how do I keep my privacy…my control…my SANITY if I don’t WANT to be that engaged with my readers 24/7?!”

He assured me it’s as much or as little as you put out there…but knowing my penchant for overzealousness and full tilt diving into the deep end, it’s one of the prime reasons I STILL haven’t “Scobleized” this blog yet.

Clearly, I’d know how to do it via these pros, but I’m just not ready to have that much ‘connectivity’ sans barriers, filters, helpers, and bandwidth…

In short? I don’t want to experience a tidal wave…I just want to put in one toe at a time. (that’s why we’ve remained a ‘beta blog’ for close to a year, and had programs ongoing for three!)

I figure if Robert Scoble, King of Naked Conversations has self-reined for personal balance, and AdAge is now reporting folks veering toward meltdown of information overload, it’s only a matter of time before I’m toast if I don’t take it down a notch in terms of creating a sustainable form of media management!

Already I’ve started to witness this information overload among parents too busy to read our blog in depth, or have time for podcasts, so we’ve been seeking out ‘short form media’ formats like Tumblr so people can scan our ‘headline news’ at a glance…

We’re already revising with some short form ‘blog rings’ forming of specialized contributors to spell me in different areas of expertise (social media, virtual worlds, food marketing, etc.) so I can dial down my OWN media volume and focus on delegating a bit to implement our own strategic plan.

As Matthew Ingram of The Globe and Mail, Toronto, asks in his own blog…

How much IS too much media? Are YOU a victim of information overload?

Are kids using media with more moderation than adults? How does YOUR media diet compare with youth intake in this Totally Wired world? I guess it’s all ‘energy balance’ as those junk food marketers would say…

Maybe youth are better suited to using ‘tech toys’ as entertainment?

It almost seems like adults have a sense of urgency toward mandatory integration of whiz-bang-boom technology to ensure we don’t get left behind in a scramble of generational obsolescence…

As parents nag about kids’ media consumption and lack of outdoor activities, or lecture about the need to wean wee ones off TV remotes and video game devotion, ask yourself this…

When was the last time you booted your OWN backside into mother nature to ‘play’ and left that Blackberry behind?

I think I’ll go take a hike right now…Setting my Skype to ‘away’…



  1. Wow. This was a great article, Amy!! So much info… must process… lol! (P.s. I’m a crackberry owner, but have only cracked 1/2 of what it offers. How messed up is that? lol)

  2. Not very, m’dear…I consider myself a neophyte, yet somehow have just answered a Skype/ web-enabled camera phone call w/my nephew (27) in London using the freebie text enabled messaging while deconstructing his shorthand and emoticons in the text box to boot!

    Meanwhile, one of my media literacy colleagues, Frank Baker is reporting in to me from the AMLA conference in St. Louis with new blog item data that needs some attention, and the CCFC has just sent an e-mail about the new ‘Adult Only’ rating for the horridly violent video game “Manhunt 2” being released 7/10:

    “On July 10, Take Two Entertainment will release Manhunt 2, a game that is being called the goriest and most violent game ever released. In Manhunt 2, players can saw their enemies’ skulls in half; mutilate them with an axe; castrate them with a pair of pliers; and kill them by bashing their heads into an electrical box, where it is blown apart by a power surge.”

    egad…yes, I’m definitely in ‘info overload’ wanting to blog about ALL of these issues pronto!

    Can we say, ‘not enough bandwidth?’ 😉 sigh. Let me know when they create a ‘clone’ to transport myself into a media morph of my own very being! heehe.

  3. Couple of excellent postings from technology educators struggling to deal with “information overload” as it pertains to the classroom. (adults keeping updated vs. overwhelmed about kid culture & digital media)

    And this one by Sylvia (noted above)on the blog here:

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