E-views: Technology, the untended doorway

Jan. 14, 2011

Each day most of us step out of our beds and into a literal torrent of electronic information.

With the average person receiving a large portion of their information from Internet and electronic media sources, it becomes imperative to research and report on the impact of the e-information blitzing through our community.

As an investigator, I'd like to begin by posing some questions.

My first and foremost goal is to question how the quantity and the changing value and delivery systems, inherent to these new information sources, shape the minds and behaviors of my fellow community members.

Within this line of examination are literally hundreds of smaller questions and ideas I hope to explore.

What better way to begin this journey than with an ongoing column where questions, research, data, opinions and solutions may find an audience and stir discussion.

To introduce our readers to this experimental forum, the following research results may provide food for both personal reflection and write-in responses.

According to "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds" (a study series funded by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation) our children's exposure to electronic media continues to increase at a substantial rate.

Conversely, those youth exposed to increasing amounts of media are showing a growing negative effect on personal contentment and, unsurprisingly, school grades.

In reviewing the 2010 study graphics, a striking single piece of information jumps out.

In the last 10 years, the average 8- to 18-year-old is now exposed to three additional hours of electronic media content per day.

Given that humans, even highly technologically savvy ones, have limits to their attention span and limits to their capacity for absorbing stimuli; the next two questions seem obvious.

One - If we have limited storage space for our intellectual and emotional attention, what is being "thrown out" by our brains in order to accommodate the incoming flood?

Two - Are children and teens likewise receiving increased exposure to parental guidance and communication in equal proportion?

How will this shifting proportion of "inputs" to the minds of our youth - and adults - affect their emotional, mental and spiritual development over time?

When I became a parent in the 1990s, I recall a great piece of wisdom posed by another writer whose name, sadly, has now been displaced by a new set of blog authors.

That piece likened the growing e-media phenomenon to an open, mostly unsupervised, door into one's home.

With great worst-case-scenario foresight, the writer posed the following thought: "Who would leave a child home alone with a rotating series of complete strangers, giving them full, unfiltered access to that child's mind and body for five to six hours a day?"

And that was before we had Internet-capable cell phones to travel with our children through every waking hour.

It does give pause.

Exactly what kind of un-discussed experiment are we conducting here?

Is anyone else concerned?

We invite those of you interested in media, children and community to respond.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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