Today’s New York Times has a fairly lengthy article headlined Wasting Time Is New Divide in Digital Era.

It’s thesis is that young people are spending too much time on screens, including television and computers. In addition, with the increased availability and affordability of computers and online access, low-income children are spending more time online for entertainment instead of education than middle and higher income kids.

I wonder if they may be making mountain out of a molehill. The numbers they used that painted alarming statistics about the increase of screentime from 1999 to the present did not seem very reliable. If someone was watching TV and surfing the Web at the same time for the same one hour, they would count that as two hours. I suspect the number of young people who were able to surf the Web at the same time they were watching TV in 1999 was much smaller than the total now, so that could explain a lot of the dramatic increase if they are “double-counting.” And other studies are showing increased television viewing by children.

So I’m not necessarily convinced that the Web in primarily to blame.

There was other interesting info in the article:

the Federal Communications Commission that it is considering a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.

I’m also not entirely convinced that parachuting trainers into schools and libraries to give trainings to students with whom they have no on-going relationship with is going to be particularly effective. I’ve written elsewhere about how educators and schools, with sufficient resources, have done and could do an effective job in helping students and parents develop tech and media literacy skills (see The Best Resources For Learning About Schools Providing Home Computers & Internet Access To Students).

One other piece of news that I found particularly interesting was that The Federal Communications Commission has finally kicked-off plan to get broad band and computers into the homes of low-income families (I’ve previously written about their initial announcement and Comcast’s pilot project).

The national program is called Connect2Compete. It basically looks like a clone of Comcast’s Internet Essentials, which seemed to work pretty well, at least here in Sacramento.

So, what do you think? Is this as big of an issue as The New York Times is making of it, or do you think it’s being overblown and their are bigger fish to fry.

I’m very open to hearing that I’m underestimating the problem….