Onze kinderen groeien op in een tijd die enorm veel verschilt van wat wij hebben beleefd. Dit verschil is terug te vinden in de ontwikkeling van de hersenen. Deze krijgen hele andere impulsen te verwerken en zullen dus anders ontwikkelen. Meer hierover in het onderstaande artikel.
Our kids’ glorious new age of distraction
Children are not what they used to be. They tweet and blog and text without batting an eyelash. Whenever they need the answer to a question, they simply log onto their phone and look it up on Google. They live in a state of perpetual, endless distraction, and, for many parents and educators, it’s a source of real concern. Will future generations be able to finish a whole book? Will they be able to sit through an entire movie without checking their phones? Are we raising a generation of impatient brats?
Research shows mobile technology is really changing children’s brains. An expert explains how we use that for good
According to Cathy N. Davidson, a professor of interdisciplinary studies at Duke University, and the author of the new book “Now You See It: How Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn,” much of the panic about children’s shortened attention spans isn’t just misguided, it’s harmful. Younger generations, she argues, don’t just think about technology more casually, they’re actually wired to respond to it in a different manner than we are, and it’s up to us — and our education system — to catch up to them.
Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of concern that new forms of technology, like smart phones, video games and the Internet, are ruining the next generation of kids — that they can’t concentrate on anything, that they’re always distracted. You don’t think that’s the case?
Back in the ’80s and ’90s, there were findings that suggested this new technology would be great as an education and learning tool. Then Columbine happened, and you could see all the research money go from “Wow, we’re in this new digital age and it’s going to be great for all of us” to “How is it that this digital era is destroying our kids?” It’s email, it’s the Internet, it’s video games, then when texting comes along, it’s texting, and when social networking comes along, it’s social networking. So whatever the flavor of the month in terms of new technologies are, there’s research that comes out very quickly that shows how it causes our children to be asocial, distracted, bad in school, to have learning disorders, a whole litany of things.
And then the Pew Foundation and MacArthur Foundation started saying, about three or four years ago: “Wait, wait, wait, let’s not assume these things are hurting our kids. Let’s just look at how our kids are using media and stop with testing that’s set up from a pejorative or harmful point of view. Let’s actually look at what’s happening.” So we’ve wasted time — but we can make it up. I think the moralistic research really, really colored over a decade of research, especially on kids.
So tell me, why isn’t all this distraction bad for our kids’ brains?
The phenomenon of attention blindness is real — when we pay attention to one thing, it means we’re not paying attention to something else. When we’re multitasking, what we’re actually really doing is what Linda Stone calls “continuous partial attention.” We’re not actually simultaneously paying equal attention to two things: One of the things that we’re doing is probably being done automatically, and we’re sort of cruising through that, and we’re paying more attention to the other thing. Or we’re moving back and forth between them. But any moment when there is a major new form of technology, people think it’s going to overwhelm the brain. In the 1930s there was legislation introduced to prevent Motorola from putting radios in dashboards, because it was thought that people couldn’t possibly cope with driving and listening to the radio.
As you point out in the book, the reason why certain things distract us more than others has to do with the way our brains develop when we’re young children.
We used to think that as we get older we develop more neural pathways, but the opposite is actually the case. You and I have about 40 percent less neurons than a newborn infant does. A baby pays attention to everything. You’ve probably witnessed this — if there are shadows in the ceiling or sand blades are making peculiar patterns, we adults don’t recognize that, but it can be utterly mesmerizing to a child. They learn what not to pay attention to over and over and over again, and learn what to pay attention to, and that makes for neural pathways that are very efficient. They’re what we tend to call reflexes or automatic behaviors, because we’ve done them so many times we don’t pay attention to them anymore. As an adult, you feel distracted when you learn something new and you can’t depend on those automatic responses or automatic reflexes that have been streamlined neurally over a lifetime of use.
Younger generations are being exposed to all these new stimuli — texting, Facebooking, Googling — from an early age. Does that mean their brains, their neural pathways, are built differently than ours?
When my students go to the Web and they’re searching and they’re leaving comments and they’re social networking and they’re Facebooking and they’re texting at the same time — those are their reflexes. They are learning to process that kind of information faster. That which we experience shapes our pathways, so they’re going to be far less stressed by a certain kind of multitasking that you are or than I am, or people who may not have grown up with that.