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Junior High Schools and Media Use

This article is a translation and edition of Benesse Educational Research Institute, 2002, Chugakusei to media no sesshoku Monografu chugakusei no sekai, Vol.71. Tokyo: Benesse Corporation. (Supervising Editor is Prof. Masashi Fukaya of Tokyo Seitoku Junior College)
-->see "Media Literacy" by Miya Omori

Growing-up in an Electronic Media Society

Surrounded by TVs, magnetic disks, and mobile phones, children growing up today consider electronic equipment and media to be a normal part of their lives. However normal they may find this environment, it is certain that they are growing up in a way that differs considerably from that of children in the past.

Children first came into contact with electronic media in the early 1980s with the marketing of video games and game software that appealed to children. This means that this year's high school graduates are the first generation of the electronic media society. Considering that the first generation has not yet reached maturity, it is still somewhat premature to draw any conclusions on what sort of specific problems the growth of an electronic media society will bring. Meanwhile, successive generations of children are now growing up with electronic media. Furthermore, considering the speed of changes in electronic media in the past ten years, it is expected that future changes will be even greater and occur at faster pace. While these factors make it difficult to define future trends, it is nevertheless important to study what sort of problems are caused by the electronic media society and its merits, and at the same time, to make an effort to minimize its demerits.

Chapter Two
Computer Use

Although students who do not use computers at all make up one-third of those surveyed (Table 2-1), the total percentage of computer-users is high. How do students actually use computers? The study indicates that they use them more for recreation than for studying. However, insofar as the children are using computers, they will become more proficient with computers even if they are using them to play games, and they will be able to use them for studying if they feel so inclined. Children appear to have computers in their living environment and use them to a greater degree than had been anticipated. It is also clear that children access the internet more than had been initially expected.

What differences exist between children who use computers and those who don't? Children who use computers tend to be enthusiastic about activities with a cultural orientation, enjoy language, and are good at mathematics and English. They also enjoy solitary activities and are trusted by adults, but they tend to suffer from mental and physical fatigue. They are considered serious, reflective, and reliable students.

Chapter 3
Relationship with Print Media

In addition to the physical environment that comprises the home, school, and community, children are surrounded by a wide variety of media that also plays a significant role in their lives. A comparison with data compiled ten years ago for Vol. 38 of Monograph: The World of Junior High School entitled "Information Society and Junior High School Students" indicates that while their use of many kinds of media has not changed much, video-game use has increased further and the percentage of junior-high school students who read the newspaper has declined considerably. (Figure 3-1)

As in the past, print media such as textbooks still plays a large role in scholastic learning in junior high school. However, a comparison of the findings of this study and those from ten years ago shows that importance of print media is declining. There is an ongoing movement away from a culture centered on print media toward greater diversity in the channels of information. This can be linked to a growing plurality in the needs and values of children.

It is necessary to study children who no longer have as many opportunities to engage in the process of collecting information through print media and the children who have new avenues for obtaining information but a diminished relation to traditional print media, and the effect that these trends have on the social behavior, thought and learning processes of young people and their relationship with adults.

Chapter Four
Junior High School Students and Cellular Phones

The percentage of junior high school students with cellular phones is 37.6%, accounting for only one-third of the total (Table 4-1). Of those with cellular phones, the following was noted: (1) a high percentage, 49.9%, spent at least 5,000 yen a month on telephone charges, (2) the highest percentage used the cellular phone to "mail friends" followed by to "tell the time" and "talk to friends" (Table 4-2), and (3) girls had little awareness that meeting strangers over the telephone and through decreased in the higher grades (Figure 4-6), and (4) one-fourth had actually become friends with a stranger. This indicates that these students were not learning how the proper use of cellular phones.

The influence of cellular phones on students depended greatly on whether the students spent a long time on the phone rather than on actual ownership of a cellular phone. Students who use cellular phones often and for long periods of time demonstrate certain four general tendencies. (1) They tend to keep irregular hours, including late bedtimes, and were tardy for school and classes, and a high percentage had engaged in aberrant behavior such as littering or returning home after midnight (Table 4-10). (2) They disregard normative attitudes and think that it is permissible to engage in wrongful behavior before becoming an adult, and disparage hard work. (3) Their mothers are consumers of expensive consumer brand items and indulgent of their children and are not perceived as a parental figure. (Table 4-12) (4) They have a negative perception of their parents that includes disrespect for their parents' lifestyle and views (Table 4-13).

Cultivating Media Literacy

Junior high school students come into contact with a wide variety of media as they grow up. Media will develop at an even faster pace, and these children are likely to be flooded with even more information. For this reason, it will become even more important to cultivate media literacy, that is, to educate them to have their own views on media.

Cultivating media literacy can be summed up as media education. Media education is often said to consist of three elements: (1) media access (2) information gathering and selection (3) the ability to convey information on one's own. From another point of view, these three areas can also be considered steps in the instruction of media literacy: (1) access (2) gathering and selection (3) self-expression. Interest in media education, nevertheless, generally focuses on the first step (1). However, in just the past ten years alone, computer use has become much easier. In media education, as well, the process involved in (1) access should now be shortened to the extent possible and more importance given to (2) the gathering and selection of information.

Given that anyone has (3) the ability to convey information, it is the content of the conveyed information that is important. However, communicating high-quality information depends on being able to approach certain problems with an understanding and insight that are appropriately deep and perceptive for one's age. It appears that the quality of study that takes place on a daily basis such as instruction in composition writing or the reading and analysis of texts is critical if students are to use media as a means of conveying high-quality information on their own.

If this is the case, it is clear that the three steps above are essential to cultivating media literacy, but acquiring (2) the ability to gather and select information on one's own is the key step to achieving this goal. Students should become able to understand the true meaning of information, judge its worth, and then select what they need from the diversity that is offered by the different media. Cultivating the ability to distinguish between different information is fundamental to living in an electronic media society.

Promoting media learning will require a commitment to carrying out high-quality instruction and learning through a process of trial and error while exchanging teaching suggestions and views. At the same time, because media learning takes place in a various of ways, that is, individually, in small groups or teams, or by grade, it will entail the following: (1) facilities and equipment that are not found in conventional schools, such as small rooms and libraries for data and materials, that can be used for individual or small-group study; (2) an increase in the number of teachers because the homeroom teacher cannot handle the number of small groups; and (3) an understandable increase in expenditures for reference materials and books as well as computers, etc., with the start of individual study, but also an unprecedented level of financial assistance to procure (1) facilities and (2) teachers. Considering budget difficulties in the current economic slowdown, it will be necessary to forge ties with the community by seeking the cooperation of the parents and guardians and the help of volunteers, make the best use of the school board and be as financially resourceful as possible.

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