Are kids too wired?

22Mar06

This week’s cover story on Time certainly seems to say so. [Link through 'Putting people first' - the multitasking generation]

The story focusses on the ability of today’s kids to multitask with respect to technology, and what’s all that digital juggling doing to their brains, family life…

On the positive side, Gen M students tend to be extraordinarily good at finding and manipulating information. And presumably because modern childhood tilts toward visual rather than print media, they are especially skilled at analyzing visual data and images, observes Claudia Koonz, professor of history at Duke University…

The article also says, by the time many kids get to college, their devices have become extensions of themselves, indispensable social accessories.

Read the story here…

Related reading: An earlier post on mindspace on the mobile is the message

The mobile phone, especially, has become an integral part of a young adult’s everyday life. Ringtones are a badge of identity as much as the clothes you wear; text and picture messaging is the way to spread the word.

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Textually has two recent posts on this theme : why mobiles are shrines to self image. According to a new study, the new social outcasts are teenagers and young adults without mobile phones. The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

“Disconnected from their peers, they risk nothing less than social desolation. The lot of the mobile phoneless is to languish waiting, condemned to a merry-go-round of missed meetings, the mobile tribes having long changed plans and moved on.

The post has some fascinating insights about how much mobile phones mean to the young today.

Katz says. “To not have a phone feels like social banishment. It really is an issue of being excluded, of being an outsider.”

… Young people consider a mobile phone the most important item of all – it is more important than access to the internet or even television, Marilyn Campbell, from the Queensland University of Technology, says.

“Getting calls and text messages are status symbols,” she says. “Ownership of a mobile phone indicates you are socially connected, independent from your family and in demand.”

And an intriguing hypothesis – Mobile phones, an effective competitor to cigarettes

The group had noticed a correlation between a sharp rise in mobile phone ownership among teenagers in the mid-1990s and the first real decline in teen smoking, a downwards trend curiously pre-dating a major government anti-smoking campaign.

“Many aspects of mobile phone use provide teenagers with the same functions offered by smoking while offering an alternative for spending money,” the group argued. “The mobile phone is an effective competitor to cigarettes in the market for products that offer teenagers adult-style.”

Both cigarettes and mobile phones offer teenagers openings for conversations. Phones also offer adolescents “something to do with their hands, give them confidence, relieve boredom and fulfil social and fun needs in much the same way smoking does”.


Technology not just as a means of staying connected with the outside world, but as something to do – to stay in touch with your inner self too… Interesting to think about it…

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