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.
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Our treatment of today's refugees harks back to Europe's darkest hour

We mustn't forget the lessons of the Second World War in the face of today's refugee crisis, says Molly Scott Cato.

In the 1930s, thousands of persecuted people fled Europe. Our own press ignominiously reported these as "Stateless Jews pouring into this country" and various records exist from that time of public officials reassuring readers that no such thing would be allowed under their watch.

With the benefit of historical hindsight we now know what fate awaited many of those Jews who were turned away from sanctuary. Quite rightly, we now express horror about the Holocaust, an iconic example of the most shocking event of human history, and pledge ourselves to stop anything like it happening again. 

Yet as Europe faces its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War we are witnessing a deafening cacophony of xenophobic voices in response to people fleeing their own present-day horror. We must therefore reflect on whether there is an uncomfortable parallel in the language being used to describe those seeking asylum today and the language used to describe Jews seeking refuge in the 1930s.

Our response to the current refugee crisis suggests we feel fearful and threatened by the mass movement of desperate people; fearful not just of sharing what we have but also of the sense of disorganisation and chaos. Does the fact that these refugees are from Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, and so not part of our continent, provide an excuse to allow them to be bombed at home or drowned during their desperate journey to safety?

We are not helped by the poorly informed public debate which—perhaps intentionally—conflates three quite different movements of people: free movement within the EU, irregular or unauthorised migration and the plight of the Middle Eastern refugees. While our misguided foreign policy and unwillingness to tackle change may give us a moral responsibility for those fleeing famine and conflict, our responsibility towards refugees from war zones is clear under international law.

Due to our commitments to the UN Refugee Convention, the vast majority of Syrian refugees who reach our territory are given asylum but the UK has taken fewer Syrian refugees than many other European countries. While Germany admitted around 41,000 asylum-seekers in 2014 alone, the UK has taken in fewer than 7000.

The problem is that any sense of compassion we feel conflicts with our perception of the economic constraints we face. In spite of being the fifth largest economy in the world we feel poor and austerity makes us feel insecure. However, when actually confronted with people in crisis our humanity can come to the fore. A friend who spent her holiday in Greece told me that she saw local people who are themselves facing real poverty sharing what they had with the thousands of refugees arriving from Turkey.

A straightforward response to the growing sense of global crisis would be to restore the authority of the UN in managing global conflict, a role fatally undermined by Tony Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq. Our role should be to support UN efforts in bringing about strong governments in the region, not taking the misguided ‘coalition of the willing’ route and running foreign policy based on self-interest and driven by the demands of the oil and arms industries.

We also need EU policy-makers to show leadership in terms of solidarity: to co-operate over the acceptance of refugees and finding them safe routes into asylum, something the European Greens have consistently argued for. The EU Commission and Parliament are in clear agreement about the need for fixed quotas for member states, a plan that is being jeopardised by national government’s responding to right-wing rather than compassionate forces in their own countries.

Refugees from war-torn countries of the Middle East need asylum on a temporary basis, until the countries they call home can re-establish security and guarantee freedom from oppression.

The responsibility of protecting refugees is not being shared fairly and I would appeal to the British people to recall our proud history of offering asylum. Without the benefit of mass media, the excuse of ignorance that can help to explain our failure to act in the 1930s is not available today. We must not repeat the mistakes of that time in the context of today’s crisis, mistakes which led to the deaths of so many Jews in the Nazi death camps. 

Molly Scott Cato is Green MEP for the South West of England.

Molly Scott Cato is Green MEP for the southwest of England, elected in May 2014. She has published widely, particularly on issues related to green economics. Molly was formerly Professor of Strategy and Sustainability at the University of Roehampton.