26 November 2010

Allison Sends and Receives 27,000 Texts a Month . . .

Well before high school, children's brains adopt a will-of-the-wisp tendency to flit about from one train of thought to another -- anything to avoid concentration and focus! So, of course, by the time these children get to college -- if they get that far -- they are in no frame of mind to settle down and learn. Much less are they able by then to learn how to learn, think, and develop laser-like focus -- the main reason for higher education in the first place.
“I realized there were choices,” Vishal recalls. “Homework wasn’t the only option.”

Several recent studies show that young people tend to use home computers for entertainment, not learning, and that this can hurt school performance, particularly in low-income families. Jacob L. Vigdor, an economics professor at Duke University who led some of the research, said that when adults were not supervising computer use, children “are left to their own devices, and the impetus isn’t to do homework but play around.”

...Allison Miller, 14, sends and receives 27,000 texts in a month, her fingers clicking at a blistering pace as she carries on as many as seven text conversations at a time. She texts between classes, at the moment soccer practice ends, while being driven to and from school and, often, while studying.

Most of the exchanges are little more than quick greetings, but they can get more in-depth, like “if someone tells you about a drama going on with someone,” Allison said. “I can text one person while talking on the phone to someone else.”

...With powerful new cellphones, the interactive experience can go everywhere. Between classes at Woodside or at lunch, when use of personal devices is permitted, students gather in clusters, sometimes chatting face to face, sometimes half-involved in a conversation while texting someone across the teeming quad. Others sit alone, watching a video, listening to music or updating Facebook.

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.

...In an experiment at the German Sport University in Cologne in 2007, boys from 12 to 14 spent an hour each night playing video games after they finished homework.

On alternate nights, the boys spent an hour watching an exciting movie, like “Harry Potter” or “Star Trek,” rather than playing video games. That allowed the researchers to compare the effect of video games and TV.

The researchers looked at how the use of these media affected the boys’ brainwave patterns while sleeping and their ability to remember their homework in the subsequent days. They found that playing video games led to markedly lower sleep quality than watching TV, and also led to a “significant decline” in the boys’ ability to remember vocabulary words. The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics. _NYT
It is likely that the brains of someone who experiences such a childhood and adolescence will be different from the brains of those who are raised to be engaged in real world, hands-on, face-to-face skills, competencies, and responsibilities. Anyone who has watched an assortment of modern music videos should understand what it takes to grab and hold the attention of the modern child -- even if only for a few moments.

Vishal -- the boy portrayed in the NYT piece linked above -- may well grow up to become a famous music video creator. He may even take the medium to an entire new level of teen-brain-entrancement. Will such skills lead to a higher capacity to make video viewers want to do something important with their lives? Or will music video creator Vishal become as much a slave to the distractability of modern young brains as the young and distracted brains are a slave to the hijacking of their own evolved tendencies?

What is happening in the lives of these children which will make them immune to the smirking groupthink gib gab talking heads such as Jon Stewart or Bill Maher, telling them how to vote and how to think? They are, after all, your future. They will choose which nursing home to send you to when you are no longer willing to let them live in your basement.

It's almost enough to drive a person to homeschool, country living, and an off-the-grid existence.

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