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The Poor Waste More Time On Digital Entertainment 515

New submitter polyphydont writes "Children of parents with low social status are less able to resist the temptations of technological entertainment, a fact that impedes their education and adds to the obstacles such children face in obtaining financial comfort later in life. As explained in the article, poor parents and their children often waste both their time and money on heavily marketed entertainment systems. Such families often accumulate PCs, gaming consoles and smart phones, but use them only for nonconstructive activities."
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The Poor Waste More Time On Digital Entertainment

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  • How DARE they! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @03:46PM (#40159229)


    In the 1990s, the term “digital divide” emerged to describe technology’s haves and have-nots. It inspired many efforts to get the latest computing tools into the hands of all Americans, particularly low-income families.

    As access to devices has spread, children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites, studies show

    In other words, a bunch of do-gooders gave a bunch of computers to the noble savages who live in that neighborhood that they avoid on the way to work, assuming that these ignorant natives would use this wonderful new device to rise up out of the ghettos and become good middle-class liberals. Only the do-gooders were distressed to learn that instead of getting their degrees online and reading academic papers, their beneficiaries instead chose to use their new machines to watch nut-shot YouTube videos and play Farmville. So now they're seeking a way to force these foolish ingrates to use their computers the way the do-gooders know they're supposed to.

    Who would have thought that giving a computer to someone who lives in a shithole neighborhood, with little in the way of safe local entertainment, would choose to use it for online entertainment, huh? We must educate them on the proper way to use a computer before they find Facebook and start messaging our daughters instead of using Kahn Academy courses to learn algebra!

    Next you'll be telling me that the kids in the One Laptop Per Child program traded their laptops for food rather than using them to learn the Queen's English!

    • After they get sick of the entertainment, maybe they'll wander off to an educational or news site and learn something. Besides I'd say games are pretty educational: They teach problem solving.

    • Re:How DARE they! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @04:20PM (#40159771)

      >>>Libertarians think they're getting freedom by eliminating the government. They're just getting corporate slavery.

      (1) Thomas Jefferson was a libertarian. He represents the ideal we strive for. (2) A libertarian or jeffersonian does not want to get rid of government. That's an anarchist. (3) Since corporations are a creation of government (via issuance of a license), if anarchists got rid of government, such that it did not exist, neither would corporations exist. (4) So basically your whole sig is flawed.

    • Re:How DARE they! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@gm ... minus herbivore> on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @05:55PM (#40160987) Journal

      And as someone who actually donates his time refurbing PCs for the poor let me say....fuck them do gooders. Sure i know that a lot of what is gonna be done on these old P4s is gonna be time wasting, so fucking what? Like poor folks aren't allowed to have ANY fun now? This is the same kind of horseshit that has caused our education bubble which I'm sure will burst any day, because no matter how much the liberal elite scream "more education!" that doesn't change the fact that if the jobs aren't here they simply aren't here and for many that student loan will just be another boat anchor weighing them down that they will never pay off.

      So let the poor have a little fucking fun, its not like theirs lives don't suck shit bad enough in this country. In my area DSL is the cheapest thing you can get, cheaper even than basic cable, so that old P4 gives them not only entertainment but news, weather (which when you live in Dixie alley can save your life), it allows them to stay in contact with distant relatives and friends, it can do a hell of a lot of good and bring happiness to someone's life which to me is worth more than some elitist being whiny about the way they use it.

      As a final note let me just give everyone the profile of my last giveaway PC recipient so that you can see what I mean...72 year old woman, shut in thanks to a bad heart, until recently had her daughter and two grandkids living with her in a 3 bedroom single wide because her daughter's husband turned into a wife beater. Now its just her as the daughter finally found a job and was able to get state aid for child care (I gave her a PC too and good luck ever getting a dime from the husband because he sold everything that wasn't nailed down to support his new meth habit and skipped state) so its just her and her cat all alone out there in the middle of nowhere.

      Now she chats daily with her old friends from HS, is learning how to quilt from online tutorials, gets to watch TV online (where she is at no signal for OTA) and generally has a hell of a lot happier life than she did when i first met her. And all of that is thanks to a P4 donated by a local business for me to refurb. So to hell with these whiners, if you are gonna be getting rid of some older hardware PLEASE donate it, there are plenty of guys like me that are happy to take a little time and refurb that for someone that really needs it. If you don't know anybody like me personally there is always the churches and freecycle, but those old machines can bring some happiness into a fellow human being's life, isn't that more important?.

  • Not Really a Fact (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @03:49PM (#40159263) Journal

    Children of parents with low social status are less able to resist the temptations of technological entertainment, a fact that impedes their education and adds to the obstacles such children face in obtaining financial comfort later in life.

    I didn't see anywhere in the article where they called that a fact. Conversely, the article seems to explain it to be a correlation and, if this concerned me, I would be more worried about the overall growing trend regardless of social status. From the article:

    A study published in 2010 by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children and teenagers whose parents do not have a college degree spent 90 minutes more per day exposed to media than children from higher socioeconomic families. In 1999, the difference was just 16 minutes.

    The study found that children of parents who do not have a college degree spend 11.5 hours each day exposed to media from a variety of sources, including television, computer and other gadgets. That is an increase of 4 hours and 40 minutes per day since 1999.

    Children of more educated parents, generally understood as a proxy for higher socioeconomic status, also largely use their devices for entertainment. In families in which a parent has a college education or an advanced degree, Kaiser found, children use 10 hours of multimedia a day, a 3.5-hour jump since 1999. (Kaiser double counts time spent multitasking. If a child spends an hour simultaneously watching TV and surfing the Internet, the researchers counted two hours.)

    Perhaps people of a lower social status feel the need to escape more so than people who have an easier life? If you live in a crappy environment, are you surprised that you want to spend 10 hours a day pretending you're a valiant knight in Skyrim or being swept up in "Adventure Time" where anything can happen?

    As explained in the article, poor parents and their children often waste both their time and money on heavily marketed entertainment systems.

    The funny thing is that if you look it as dollar spent per hour enjoyed, it's not a waste of money. It's actually much more affordable than taking your kid on a field trip or sailing or even to the movies. Hell, football pads and gear probably cost more than a Wii with games. I agree that the kids should spend more time visiting the library but as someone who grew up underneath the poverty line, I feel like this interpretation of this study was pretty shallow. I mean, if you're concerned about poor people spending money on video games, why aren't you demanding we outlaw the lottery and gambling? Numbers-wise it's not rich people who enjoy those stupid, expensive habits.

    • The funny thing is that if you look it as dollar spent per hour enjoyed, it's not a waste of money.

      That's really hard to evaluate. $60 for that AAA game which gets a total of 5-10 hours of play is far more expensive than the $7-15 admission for an afternoon at a museum, or $120 for an annual pass to the zoo.

    • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @04:16PM (#40159699) Homepage Journal

      Perhaps people of a lower social status feel the need to escape more so than people who have an easier life? If you live in a crappy environment, are you surprised that you want to spend 10 hours a day pretending you're a valiant knight in Skyrim or being swept up in "Adventure Time" where anything can happen?

      Other possible answers include that better off families are more likely to do other things that cost more money. Or that better off parents are more likely to have a day off to take the kids out somewhere (possibly somewhere educational, possibly not)..

      It might even be that better schools in wealthier neighborhoods have more worthwhile extracurricular activities.

      The thing about digital entertainment is that once you have the media, it costs no more money to spend another hour with it.

      • No kidding (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @04:59PM (#40160361)

        I got to do a lot of cool things as a kid but looking back at them the reason it was possible was my family had a reasonable bit of money. It wasn't all that cheap. Even simple things like a day at the museum that is like $50 for two kids and an adult, never mind food or any extras. That is amusing and educational, but for one day max, and realistically you probably don't stay all day. Well $50 will nearly get you a video game (most are $60 these days). Less used or on sale on Steam or something. That can entertain you for days on end.

        So if a family doesn't have much money, it isn't hard to see why they'd choose games over museum visits, even if they understand it would be better educationally.

        Hell I am setting up our labs (at a university) for a summer program for high school and middle school students right now. Cool summer engineering academy thing. Looks like it would be pretty fun and educational for geek type kids. However, it costs money. I don't know the details, that isn't my area, but only people who can pay, probably a fair bit (couple hundred is my guess) can get in.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @03:51PM (#40159291)

    Such families often accumulate PCs, gaming consoles and smart phones, but use them only for nonconstructive activities.

    Find me a constructive activity to do with gaming consoles and smart phones. Stack them up like blocks? Practice marksmanship? Learn circuit bending?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by godrik ( 1287354 )

      my son uses his smarthphone to slack off but also to check wikipedia when he encounter a concept he does not know. I do not see smartphone as just a distraction.

      Though to be honest I believe it makes more harm than good.

    • by Xiaran ( 836924 )
      I read works of fiction and non-fiction on my smartphone. I also have an offline wiki mirror there which comes in very useful. I also listen to audio books and lectures. Most of my TV viewing(which isn't much) is via netflix and lovefilm on a PS3.
    • by Jeng ( 926980 )

      Practice problem solving in a simulated world.

    • Find me a constructive activity to do with gaming consoles

      This guy did:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_hotz [wikipedia.org]

      Of course, if inner-city black children were doing that sort of thing, they would probably be arrested and charged with a variety of crimes.

  • Waste? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bananaquackmoo ( 1204116 ) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @03:53PM (#40159337)
    Waste and spend are two entirely different things.
  • So we waste technology for entertainment eh? Isn't this just the tip of the iceberg of the technological revolution? I call bullshit. Where's the percentage who use it to expand their minds?
  • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @03:53PM (#40159343) Homepage Journal

    Don't forget the lottery!

    It's the math tax, you know.

  • This is nothing more than thinly veiled lifestyle snobbery. Why is it even on /.?

  • Poor... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jaymzter ( 452402 ) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @03:56PM (#40159385) Homepage

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Such families often accumulate PCs, gaming consoles and smart phones

    and again...

    At home, where money is tight, his family has two laptops, an Xbox 360 and a Nintendo Wii, and he has his own phone.

    Being poor in America is definitely a weird thing...

    • I think I know what you're implying. It's a very common refrain to claim that the US doesn't really have much poverty based on metrics like TV ownership. But, the cost of luxury tech items in relation to salaries is far different today. Fifty years ago, owning a TV was like buying a used car. Hell, I can get the big screen I bought 5 years ago at 1/4 the price and much higher quality (damn it!). Never mind the depreciation of buying these items used. Same with a PC.

      No, you can't compare poverty in sub

      • And 50 years ago, just about anyone who really wanted a TV could buy one - saving up for it exactly the same way they saved up for the used car. Except they didn't really want the TV that badly, and they needed the car. So they saved up for the used car instead. Because 50 years ago, they did save their money. They weren't pissing away their money on unnecessary stuff that might only cost a small fraction of their income, but adds up.

        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          BULLSHIT! They just could not get easy loans. People have not changed that much. Many folks wasted their money at the bar, or on gambling or onions for their belts.

          Your post is classic it was better $WHENEVER bullshit. The reality is a TV cost as much as a car and their cars all sucked. So they had to keep buying them over and over. Since at the time consumer credit was in its infancy they were forced to save money for another car to get to work.

      • by DaveGod ( 703167 )

        No, you can't compare poverty in sub-Saharan Africa to poverty in the worst of Detroit's slums, but it's poverty nonetheless.

        Absolute vs. relative poverty.

        Generally when we consider the 3rd world we're talking about absolute poverty - a line below which we feel no human should have to live.

        Generally when people in the first (and to a slightly lesser extent, second) world talk about our own countries we're talking about relative poverty - a position so far from our social norm that we feel no fellow citizen should have to live in.

        This isn't only a "looking out for your own" type thing, it reflects how our mind works. You'll find p

    • by Kenja ( 541830 )
      Its called "credit". Sure, at some point you'll need to pay it off or go bankrupt. But that's in the future, which may not even happen! Besides, but then I'm sure to have won the lottery.
    • Being poor in America is definitely a weird thing...

      Only because as a society we've decided that abject poverty is not acceptable. You hear lots of talk about government anti-poverty programs "failing" when in fact they are successes precisely because being poor in America rarely means the same thing it does in any 3rd world country when less than 100 years ago there was practically no difference.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      Being poor is not having the expendable income to go out to the zoo, the museum, the arboretum or the park. An Xbox can be a christmas present. A PC is a birthday present. These do not necessarily have recurring expenses.. Phone and cable and internet for a family might be a recurring expense of a couple hundred dollars a month, and are generally something that is paid for if money is available. You can still play on your smart phone even if you do not have phone service or internet. So the things yo
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @03:56PM (#40159395)

    I've observed that many affluent people spend great deals of cash on sporting goods, expensive hobbies, and out-of-home entertainment.

    It's not like they're all buying computers and then using them for productivity.... it's just that a great deal of more productive, healthy, or useful activities are still much more expensive than cheap TVs, cheap computers, and cheap video games.

    It's not like the rich people stare at the wall all day instead of playing video games.

    Seriously - while the ghetto dad is playing with his $200 XBox, the rich dads are riding $2000 bikes with $3000 worth of shiny spandex.

  • I noticed the same sort of trend with people that are driving cars that barely run, yet have the latest and greatest smart phone from one of the big carriers. I wonder if it is just because the poor might wrongfully think that respect is earned through how much one owns, sports, and shows off. Some of it is the bling factor, some of it is just buying the toys out of cynicism and resignation. They might be resigned to never leaving their current socio-economic status so they buy gadgets to make life a lit
  • by davecrusoe ( 861547 ) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @03:56PM (#40159403) Homepage
    While what Matt Ritchel writes in his NY Times article does raise an issue worth discussing, I have two issues with what he writes. The first is that he fails to mention that this pattern mirrors long-standing patterns of media consumption. Media reports, including those by Pew, the Kaiser Family Foundation (and many others) indicate correlations between consumption and SES (socio-economic status). The presumption is that exposure to media is counerproductive. Which brings me to my second point: the assumption that exposure to media is counterproductive. Matt mentions several students in his article; they indicate that they're falling victim to "media overuse", missing homework and not getting enough sleep. But what's much harder to measure is the value that media users ARE gaining from using media, including Facebook, for their activities. As an example, we see a workplace shift toward hiring workers with 'social marketing' and 'online' skills; and it's no question that big companies are betting on "Social CRM", including the king of CRM, Salesforce. So, it's absolutely possible that using Facebook - overusing, some might say - is actually aiding its users gain in the online social skills they'll need to succeed in the future. But all of this doesn't detract from a central point about media consumption, and that is, that it's at the expense of Other Things: like playing hide and seek, running, gardening, etc - many of the active things that help humans be socially, physically and mentally healthy in ways that interaction with a computer can't. So, all in all, it's a thick question -- Matt does do something important by raising the issue, so KUDOS for that. The question, now, is what we all learn from the dialogue. Cheers, --Dave / PLML
  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @03:57PM (#40159415)

    They make poor decisions (such as spending $110 a month for unlimited cellphone service) and thus continue to be poor. While those who make smarter decisions, like investing the $110 in a business, and climb up the income ladder to middle class.

    *I used the example based on someone I know. Doesn't even know how to use the internet, but still "had" to have a $110/month plan. Meanwhile the credit cards go unpaid.

  • In other words - people who are too lazy to "get ahead" will spend some of their laziness on electronic doodads when they have the opportunity to do so. Who would have guessed?

    And before you jump on the "too lazy" part of what I just said - if you're poor or down & out, and you're playing XBOX instead of going to the library to learn whatever, or you spend the money on an XBOX instead of something that would provide you with the knowledge to get ahead, then yes, you're lazy.

    For most people, gettin
    • For most people, getting ahead takes hard work. It's a lot easier to seek out entertainment than the knowledge and skills required to get ahead. This article seems to be right in line with what most people would expect.

      That's why I spend all of my free time reading important news on Slashdot instead of wasting time on unproductive digital entertainment.

  • What were they supposed to do? Write a novel? Yeah, that's pretty easy to do when you are starving, worried about the landlord kicking you out, and dodging bullets on your way to and from school.

    Manage their bank accounts they don't have? Oh wait, maybe use western union on line to pay bills with the cash they have.. Oh wait, you need a bank account for that.

    Hmm, go to online courses that they can't afford to get that MBA? Purchase publishing software or graphic art software? Learn to write Java for En

  • by imidan ( 559239 ) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @04:12PM (#40159653)

    There is this idea that "computers", as an abstract concept, are a way to improve education. We see this all the time; most recently, states are pouring huge amounts of money into putting laptop computers into the hands of every student. It seems that people seldom ask why we're doing this. Why are we doing this? Well, it's self-evident that computers make education better, right? At least, that's the way we've been treating the issue. We don't have enough people asking in what ways, specifically, computers will improve education.

    So this article is about the result of that way of thinking. Today, even the poorer kids have access to technology in their homes. And, obviously, they play video games with the technology instead of sitting in front of the computer and thinking great thoughts and composing essays and multimedia presentations in their spare time. But the article is full of people who express surprise at this. They are mystified that putting computers into kids' hands didn't magically make them into better students and deeper thinkers.

    As has been said in this forum many times before, a computer is merely a tool. There is absolutely no reason why you should expect a student to suddenly become a great learner simply because you handed him a computer, any more than you would expect him to complete his education on his own if you handed him a pile of K-12 textbooks. Someone in charge has to stop and ask the right questions, if we want computers to really help in education. Someone has to stop and ask why and how we expect computers to help, and then implement a plan that actually makes that happen. Because right now, we're just funneling a lot of money into facebook machines for students.

  • FWIW - I suspect a whole subgroup of our species is more susceptible to advertising/meme following/trends (call it what you will). A new Ipad is out - that's it, I've just got to have it. A new Beamer, a new TV, a new household accessory, a new holiday destination, a new school, a new suburb, a new pair of shoes ...

    Used to be called keeping up with the Joneses. Nor sure what it is now. Marketeers just love these people.
  • The article implies that people that are poor waste more time (and likely, a greater percentage of their already small income) on Digital Entertainment.

    Isn't this really the other way around?
    I think people that waste lots of time watching movies and buying gadets they don't need end up being poor. (Of course rich people are an exception, but I'm talking low/middle class here).

  • "Work is the curse of the drinking class" --Oscar Wilde.

  • by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @04:25PM (#40159855)
    Reminds me some years ago when a city councilman wanted to significantly reduce number of liquor stores. He said poorer areas of city have higher concentration of such stores enticing poor people to spend money on liquor and cigarettes. He also pointed out there are many more billboards for these products in lower income neighborhoods, and then policy makers wonder why poor people waste so much time of cigs and booze. For me, I think number of stores should be reduced (I admit I've not done statistical surveys to see if poor neighborhoods have higher concentration liquor stores than wealthy). But lots of luck implementing because people will scream guvmint regulations/interference/socialism (or whatever govt gripe of the month) destroying our choice of how we want to live.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun