How connected are you?

Charting the huge increase in the amount of time spent online

Have you been virtually connected to the world today?

Many Europeans, and even more Americans, are scrapping newspapers and logging online to catch up on the latest headlines. In the last two years, according to a survey by Juniper Research, the time Europeans spend online has increased from two to four hours per week. The time Americans spend online each week is more than triple this number- they now spend, on average, 14 hours a week online.

In the United Kingdom, from 2004 to 2005, there was a whopping 63 percent increase in the number of households with broadband internet access. Now nine million people are surfing the web using their broadband internet connections- and that number is rising rapidly.

Perhaps it is not a surprise that it's young people who are driving these trends. Already 27 percent of UK citizens between the ages of 16 and 24,surveyed in a 2006 Ofcom Communications Market Report, said they read newspapers less as a consequence of online news. These same young people are also slowly turning away from their television sets and instead focusing on their computer screens, spending one less hour per week watching television per day than the average 2006 viewer.

But what, exactly, are they doing?

Networking, of course. More than 70 percent of these 16 to 24-year-old users are using social networking websites and 37 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds have contributed to a blog or message board. Young people from 15 to 24 are twice as likely to consume video and music content online. Starting at increasingly earlier ages, the younger generations are immersing themselves in instant communication, finding these interactions to be much more stimulating than holding a printed document or even tuning their radios to popular stations.

If you want to see how much today's youth are connecting, just take a walk through a university campus. Any student who isn't surrounded by a group of friends is likely to either be talking on their mobile phone or jamming to their iPod, oblivious to the rest of the world. And now that they can download podcasts and videos online to watch on their iPods, it's becoming even easier to bypass television and radio completely.

In the U.S., there have been debates in many elementary and middle schools about what to do about iPods in the classroom. Some schools have banned the contraptions, but others are embracing them as a new teaching tool. One solution to the iPod problem, promoted by Apple itself, has been to use them as educational tools. Requiring every student to bring their science project to class on a sleek iPod might just be a future norm.

So, if the upcoming generations are so connected, what does this mean for the future of print newspapers, non-digital radio stations and basic television stations?

Well, they're not going under any time soon but are going to have to adapt to a population that likes to be instantly entertained and thrives on being connected. Newspaper sales are already down, and those that are not developing attractive new websites are lagging behind the times. It's become all about the package. News websites with the most hits effectively deliver the entire package- complete with audio, video and print, satisfying as many senses as possible at one time.

These changes don't mean that the death of print is near. Back when cable television entered the market in the 1990s, the print news sources faced similar problems. But they're still alive. As the Internet infiltrates society, people might not buy as many traditional newspapers, but they'll keep going providing they adapt.

The media will always find its way to you, and you will always connect somehow to the media. It's just the way it goes. Don't believe me? You're connecting right now.

Hana Bieliauskas is a junior at Ohio University majoring in magazine journalism. She is currently studying in London.
Photo: Getty
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Rising crime and fewer police show the most damaging impacts of austerity

We need to protect those who protect us.

Today’s revelation that police-recorded crime has risen by 10 per cent across England and Wales shows one of the most damaging impacts of austerity. Behind the cold figures are countless stories of personal misery; 723 homicides, 466,018 crimes with violence resulting in injury, and 205,869 domestic burglaries to take just a few examples.

It is crucial that politicians of all parties seek to address this rising level of violence and offer solutions to halt the increase in violent crime. I challenge any Tory to defend the idea that their constituents are best served by a continued squeeze on police budgets, when the number of officers is already at the lowest level for more than 30 years.

This week saw the launch Chris Bryant's Protect The Protectors Private Member’s Bill, which aims to secure greater protections for emergency service workers. It carries on where my attempts in the last parliament left off, and could not come at a more important time. Cuts to the number of police officers on our streets have not only left our communities less safe, but officers themselves are now more vulnerable as well.

As an MP I work closely with the local neighbourhood policing teams in my constituency of Halifax. There is some outstanding work going on to address the underlying causes of crime, to tackle antisocial behaviour, and to build trust and engagement across communities. I am always amazed that neighbourhood police officers seem to know the name of every kid in their patch. However cuts to West Yorkshire Police, which have totalled more than £160m since 2010, have meant that the number of neighbourhood officers in my district has been cut by half in the last year, as the budget squeeze continues and more resources are drawn into counter-terrorism and other specialisms .

Overall, West Yorkshire Police have seen a loss of around 1,200 officers. West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart is clear about the result: "To say it’s had no effect on frontline policing is just a nonsense.” Yet for years the Conservatives have argued just this, with the Prime Minister recently telling MPs that crime was at a record low, and ministers frequently arguing that the changing nature of crime means that the number of officers is a poor measure of police effectiveness. These figures today completely debunk that myth.

Constituents are also increasingly coming to me with concerns that crimes are not investigated once they are reported. Where the police simply do not have the resources to follow-up and attend or investigate crimes, communities lose faith and the criminals grow in confidence.

A frequently overlooked part of this discussion is that the demands on police have increased hugely, often in some unexpected ways. A clear example of this is that cuts in our mental health services have resulted in police officers having to deal with mental health issues in the custody suite. While on shift with the police last year, I saw how an average night included a series of people detained under the Mental Health Act. Due to a lack of specialist beds, vulnerable patients were held in a police cell, or even in the back of a police car, for their own safety. We should all be concerned that the police are becoming a catch-all for the state’s failures.

While the politically charged campaign to restore police numbers is ongoing, Protect The Protectors is seeking to build cross-party support for measures that would offer greater protections to officers immediately. In February, the Police Federation of England and Wales released the results of its latest welfare survey data which suggest that there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults on officers over a 12-month period, and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon.

This is partly due to an increase in single crewing, which sees officers sent out on their own into often hostile circumstances. Morale in the police has suffered hugely in recent years and almost every front-line officer will be able to recall a time when they were recently assaulted.

If we want to tackle this undeniable rise in violent crime, then a large part of the solution is protecting those who protect us; strengthening the law to keep them from harm where possible, restoring morale by removing the pay cap, and most importantly, increasing their numbers.

Holly Lynch is the MP for Halifax. The Protect the Protectors bill will get its second reading on the Friday 20th October. 

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