A Multi-Tasking Generation

March 19, 2006

Being a single mother, I am guilty of multi-tasking. I am that frenzied woman you see driving at least one of her kids to school, while I put on make-up, while I eat something, and while I talk on the phone. Geez…writing that down, I make myself cringe! But, sometimes I have to be that frenzied. Sometimes I feel as if there are not enough hours in the day.

But, according to a “Time Magazine” article entitled, “Are Kids Too Wired For Their Own Good?”, single mothers aren’t the only ones multi-tasking. Being that our kids are “gadget savy”, the article points out that perhaps our kids are too “plugged in”.

The big finding of a 2005 survey of Americans ages 8 to 18 by the Kaiser Family Foundation is not that kids were spending a larger chunk of time using electronic media — that was holding steady at 6.5 hours a day (could it possibly get any bigger?) — but that they were packing more media exposure into that time: 8.5 hours’ worth, thanks to “media multitasking” — listening to iTunes, watching a DVD and IMing friends all at the same time.

Although the article points out that being gadget savvy in this generation can be a good thing, being that students tend to be good at finding and manipulating information, it also has a down side.

Many educators and psychologists say parents need to actively ensure that their teenagers break free of compulsive engagement with screens and spend time in the physical company of human beings — a growing challenge not just because technology offers such a handy alternative but because so many kids lead highly scheduled lives that leave little time for old-fashioned socializing and family meals. Indeed, many teenagers and college students say overcommitted schedules drive much of their multitasking.

In that case, says Hallowell, “you are not having family dinner, you are not having conversations, you are not debating whether to go out with a boy who wants to have sex on the first date, you are not going on a family ski trip or taking time just to veg. It’s not so much that the video game is going to rot your brain, it’s what you are not doing that’s going to rot your life.”

This weekend, I am babysitting two of my nieces. One is 12 and one is 13. I took them all out to dinner last night and noticed that not only were both my nieces using their cell phones, but my daughter was as well. They were IMing each other! After laughing, I made them all not only put away their phones, but turn them off. We were going to talk, the old fashion way.