What seemingly grouchy adults have suspected for years is actually true—at least according to a new study. Overall, kids today are less creative than they used to be.
Kyung Hee Kim, a creativity researcher at the College of William and Mary, examined around 300,000 creativity tests going back to the 1970s, according to an article on msnbc.com. He discovered that imaginative thought has decreased since 1990. Kids are now less likely to have novel ideas and be humorous and original. They’re also less capable of expounding on ideas.
So what does Kim say caused this? Clearly, it’s too complex to pin on any one reason, but he points his finger at three important factors: schools that focus an inordinate amount of time on aptitude testing, the lack of free play time and … kids spending too much time in front of various screens.
I can’t help but focus on screen time’s effects, specifically. Granted, kids watching too much TV has been a problem since, well, probably, the television was invented. But “too much” now is a lot more than “too much” was back in the day. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 8- to 18-year-olds spend an average of seven hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media during a typical day. Over the past five years, that’s an increase of one hour and 17 minutes a day, up from six hours 21 minutes in 2004. And because they spend so much of that time using more than one medium at a time—think watching TV while surfing the Internet—they actually pack 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those seven and a half hours.
I can see how kids driven by an aptitude-test-obsessed education system that requires one right response for an exam can be stifled creatively. And I can see how overscheduled kids suffer because they lack playtime. I just wonder, though, which is the biggest culprit: the classroom or media? There’s no way to know with certainty. But at least we have an easier solution to the latter.