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Rewired for the digital age (and that’s not necessarily a good thing)

From the New York Times

Sam Crocker, Vishal’s closest friend, who has straight A’s but lower SAT scores than he would like, blames the Internet’s distractions for his inability to finish either of his two summer reading books.

“I know I can read a book, but then I’m up and checking Facebook,” he says, adding: “Facebook is amazing because it feels like you’re doing something and you’re not doing anything. It’s the absence of doing something, but you feel gratified anyway.”

He concludes: “My attention span is getting worse.”

The entire article is a must read I am amazed at how passive families and parents are about their kids school work.  I was a noted slacker when I was a teenager about homework but my mother rode me to get it done.  While one student points out that there was distractions out there, there has always been distractions.

But Vishal and his family say two things changed around the seventh grade: his mother went back to work, and he got a computer. He became increasingly engrossed in games and surfing the Internet, finding an easy outlet for what he describes as an inclination to procrastinate.

“I realized there were choices,” Vishal recalls. “Homework wasn’t the only option.”

This isn’t new.  I was grounded from early in grade seven (other than church and hockey) until sometime in grade 8 without a break.  Even over the summer months.  It wasn’t one big grounding but a series of smaller ones that kept being added on.  Eventually my mother took away television, then my radio in my room, my toys and I still found new ways not to do homework but eventually you realize that this world demands something of you and you have to focus.

Students say that their parents, worried about the distractions, try to police computer time, but that monitoring the use of cellphones is difficult. Parents may also want to be able to call their children at any time, so taking the phone away is not always an option.

Other parents wholly embrace computer use, even when it has no obvious educational benefit.

“If you’re not on top of technology, you’re not going to be on top of the world,” said John McMullen, 56, a retired criminal investigator whose son, Sean, is one of five friends in the group Vishal joins for lunch each day.

Well first of all, why does a kid need a smartphone.  One student sent 27,000 text messages last month.  That can be controlled by downgrading her phone, limiting her outgoing messages to a more manageable number, and then demanding that she has to have cell phone minutes and and available text messages if she wants to go out.  Since when is “unlimited texting” and unlimited web access a human right?  The Nokia 1100 is the world’s most popular phone and really does someone going to school needs more than that?  250,000,000 users have gotten by with it but in North America, Rogers, Bell, and AT&T have got us convinced that a $600 smartphone is our only option.

“I’m doing Facebook, YouTube, having a conversation or two with a friend, listening to music at the same time. I’m doing a million things at once, like a lot of people my age,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll say: I need to stop this and do my schoolwork, but I can’t.”

That is why kids need parents.  They can’t always draw boundaries themselves.  Sadly it seems like all of us are having a harder and harder time drawing those boundaries.

One Comment

  1. […] has two really good but really depressing posts on children and technology.  The first one is about kids not being able to walk away from technology. “The technology amplifies whoever you are,” Mr. Reilly […]

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