Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction
By all rights, Vishal, a bright 17-year-old, should already have finished the book, ’s “Cat’s Cradle,” his summer reading assignment. But he has managed 43 pages in two months. He typically favors , and making digital videos. That is the case this August afternoon. Bypassing Vonnegut, he clicks over to YouTube, meaning that tomorrow he will enter his senior year of high school hoping to see an improvement in his grades, but without having completed his only summer homework. On YouTube, “you can get a whole story in six minutes,” he explains. Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. Researchers say the lure of these technologies, while it affects adults too, is particularly powerful for young people. “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 and executive director of the Center on Media and Child Health in Boston. But he also plays video games 10 hours a week.