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In remarks delivered at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila last week, the Pope received a question about information technology in young people’s lives. Here is what he said:

Today, with so many means of communication we are overloaded with information. Is that bad? No. It is good and can help. But there is a real danger of living in a way that we accumulate information. We have so much information but maybe we don’t know what to do with that information. So we run the risk of becoming museums of young people who have everything but not knowing what to do with it.

Sounds right to me, especially when we consider the raw numbers for youths in America.

  • In 2011, Nielsen found that teens with a mobile device average 3,417 texts per month (sent or received).
  • According a 2012 report from Bernstein & Co., teens still watch four hours of TV each day. The advent of the Internet, video games, iPods, and Facebook hasn’t shortened TV time at all. On the contrary, viewing has gone up in recent years.
  • More than one in five teenagers (22 percent) log on to a social media site more than ten times each day.
  • According to Kaiser Foundation, 8–18-year-olds average thirty-three minutes per day talking on their cell phones and forty-nine minutes per day playing or watching media on those phones. They run up eighty-nine minutes per day using their computers for non-school activities.

That makes for a massive daily information diet, most of it useless social stuff. Or rather, it’s worse than useless, because of the opportunity costs: less time on homework, playing a musical instrument, reading a book, taking a meditative walk . . .

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