If you’re an aspiring writer thinking about penning a novel aimed at the YA (young adult) market, you may want to consider looking into a new line of work. A new report from the American Psychological Association reveals that teenagers simply aren’t reading all that much anymore. That probably won’t come as too much of a shock if you know any teens and see how they are constantly focused on their phones (along with most adults these days), but it’s even worse than you may have imagined. Not only is the reading of dead-tree printed material way, way down, but the kids aren’t even reading digital e-books for pleasure in very large numbers. Reading anything longer than a text message or Facebook status update, it seems, is simply too much of a chore. (Time)

A third of U.S. teenagers haven’t read a book for pleasure in at least a year, according to a new survey from the American Psychological Association (APA). And it’s not because they’re too busy watching TV.

The research, published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, points to the continuing dominance of digital media among teenagers. Teen use of traditional media — such as books, magazines and television — has dropped off, while time spent texting, scrolling through social media and using other forms of digital media continues to increase, the survey says.

To reach their conclusions, APA researchers analyzed data from the Monitoring the Future study, an ongoing annual survey of around 50,000 eighth, 10th and 12th graders. The study included survey responses from 1976 to 2016.

While it may seem like a sliver of good news, there is at least an increase in consumption of “audio books.” Rather than reading the material, younger people increasingly would prefer to put in their earbuds and have someone read the book to them instead. Podcasts also continue to be popular for non-video entertainment as well as news consumption.

Shouldn’t we be more worried about that? The act of reading, even if it’s on a screen, is a specific way of taking in information. Reading comprehension has always been an important aspect of the educational process. And like any other skill, when you stop using it, the skill atrophies.

The same applies to the ability to employ handwriting. Going back to 2013 we saw instruction in cursive writing fall off the requirements for students in 41 states. Even block printing isn’t emphasized very much. The focus is on the ability to use a keyboard. That’s certainly a requirement for most office jobs these days and computer skills are vital, but handwriting is built into our psyche. It’s a treasure which was once reserved for the elite (in the middle ages) but was eventually drilled into everyone. Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.

First we stopped writing and now we’re apparently losing track of the importance of reading. If the day comes when a solar flare or some other type of electromagnetic burst wipes out our technology for a generation, we’re going to be in hot water. And apparently, most of the younger survivors won’t even be able to spell hot water or read the instructions on how to boil it.