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Screen time may be good for ag’s future

Peter Cade/Getty Images children playing on phones and tablets
LOCKED ON: It is hard to get the attention of tweens or teenagers these days, competing with videos held in their hands with smartphones or tablets. This laser focus could bode well for farmers and ranchers to share agriculture’s story with Gen Z.
Tweens create videos on agriculture production targeting their peers.

This next generation is not camera shy. I have a grandnephew who can be pouting one minute, and as soon as the phone camera is in front of his face, he is all smiles. It’s a neat trick to almost instantaneously change his attitude.

Like it or not, technology for the next generation is like breathing. Now, I’m not promoting limiting screen time for your own child. However, I’m banking on the fact that future consumers will be tuned in to what is happening in agriculture. And the message should be presented by those involved in farming.

So, how early is too early to get the message out about production agriculture? And where does the next generation share their stories?

What they are viewing

Common Sense is an independent, nonprofit research group that looks at entertainment and technology recommendations for families and schools. Each year, they conduct a survey of technology use by both children and teens.

In its latest report from 2019, teens (ages 13 to 18) spent just under seven-and-a-half hours in front of screens consisting of mostly phones, tablets or computers. For tweens (ages 8 to 12), it was slightly less at five hours. This was not including time spent for school or homework.

However, these numbers are likely to change this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many students spent time alone and attended school virtually. It actually predicts, as many would expect, that screen time will increase even more.

While time spent in front of the TV dropped, video watching by both teens and tweens almost doubled since the 2015 report. Most kids view these videos on their own smartphone. By age 11, Common Sense found that 53% of kids have their own smartphone, and by age 12, that number jumps to 69%. When it comes to teenagers, well, up to 84% have a smartphone.

With such an increase in video viewing, it makes sense for agriculture to share information to this demographic at an earlier age. And what better way than to have their peers deliver the message.

Supporting student voices

Middle school students across Missouri had the opportunity to earn money for their classroom by competing in the FCS Financial Ag Curriculum Video Contest.

In 2019, a new agriculture curriculum sponsored by FCS Financial and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was introduced to middle schools. It consists of six topic areas — Exploring Animal Science, Exploring Plant Science, Exploring Food Science and Exploring Natural Resources have been launched. To celebrate the release of each topic area, FCS Financial hosts a video contest for public schools located in the FCS Financial service area.

The winners for the 2020-21 school year are:

Exploring Animal Science — Salisbury FFA, ag teacher Breanne Brammer

 

Exploring Food Science — Elsberry FFA, ag teacher Sarah Ray

 

Exploring Natural Resources — Elsberry FFA, ag teacher Sarah Ray

 

Exploring Plant Science — Audrain County R-V1 FFA, ag teacher Stacy French

 

Benefits to future of farming

I like that companies such as FCS and organizations like FFA are fostering well-spoken agriculture educators. Kudos to these teachers who encouraged students to stand up in front of a camera and communicate a message. Fostering younger students to articulate the importance of farming and ranching to their peers is critical in sustaining agriculture production in the future.

If you have an FFA chapter or even a home-school group that would like to submit a video in the 2021-22 school year, the contest opens Nov. 1 and entries are due by April 1. This year, Exploring Ag Systems Technology and Exploring Agribusiness will be added. For more on this video contest, email FCS Financial at [email protected].

The curriculum is stored on the Missouri FFA website at no cost to Missouri agriculture teachers. Agriculture or home-school teachers should email Marie Davis at [email protected] for access.

Perhaps as future generations share about agriculture, there will be a change in consumers' attitudes toward food production and consumption. All it takes is to turn on the video camera.

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