Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wired For Constant Distraction

It makes you wonder what the implications are for the Church of the future. A generation of children and young adults are growing up wired for distraction, according to a New York Times article titled, Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction by Matt Richtel. Young brains are especially vulnerable to becoming accustomed to and distracted by constant stimuli and multiple distractions. According to the article, "Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning." Young minds are not able to sustain attention, because children and teens are constantly switching tasks from video games to checking Facebook, watching music videos, using the internet and texting on their phones. "Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing," said Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. The fear is that, "We're raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently."
It sounds bizarre to me (like the unfolding of a science-fiction scenario). There are obvious benefits to computers and cellphones, and I understand the value of using technology but it seems to me these trends among young people are worrisome for the future.
How can children be taught to appreciate the value of silence, prayer and rituals, if they need constant stimuli? Even more troublesome is what if their brains are wired to seek constant, changing stimuli and they are not able to stay focused. It seems even while students are doing homework at home, they are multi-tasking at the same time, going back and forth between their assignments and texting, computers and Facebook. Many students are having trouble completing reading assignments, because there are so many distractions, they can't even finish reading a book.
One of the photographs highlighted in the article, showed a young teen texting. Apparently she sends 27,000 texts a month. She talks to several people at the same time. I would imagine that's an extreme case, and I find it hard to believe. Does she ever look up from her phone? I wonder what her parents have to say about that. Do her parents pay her phone bill and are they aware of how much she texts? ( I guess now they are, after her photograph appeared in the Times.)
The world is changing rapidly because of technology. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to experience the world before computers changed the world. Obviously it will never be the same. I hope and pray the Church meets the challenges of the future and uses technology wisely and creatively.