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DAVIDSON: Kids Are Too Wired, But It's Not the Government’s Fault — Opinion

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Kids today unknowingly are virtual slaves of technology, even if they are content. It would be easy to uncork a fastball aimed at local, state, and federal government, accusing them of abandoning today’s children, and caring very little for their welfare. When you examine societies around the world, however, it is apparent that the phenomenon is occurring all over the globe.

The rise of the internet, which has its origins in U.S. military communications dating back 70 to 80 years, was inevitable. Television, which achieved critical mass in 1951, is an entertainment monster of which we’ve all been aware for decades. Today, in America, 10 times as many radio stations exist as when radio was first introduced.

Wired, Day In and Day Out

The onslaught of communication technology has long been in formation; sufficiently long for our populace to have adjusted to the level of potential intrusiveness. Have we adjusted, however? More specifically, have parents adjusted so as to be effective parents?

A study of 2000 children conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation years back confirmed what we have all suspected: Today’s youth, ages 8 to 18, outside of school, are “wired” all day long. Young people today are connected to the Internet, use their cell phone, watch television, or listen to music with an MP3 player virtually all day that they are not in school or otherwise in a no connection zone such as church, underwater, or the dentist chair.

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The Kaiser Family Foundation study also found that half of these young people are invested in electronic media “some” or “most of the time,” while they’re doing their homework. How well do these children perform when attempting to multitask in this manner? Those who earn the poorest grades in school and exhibit behavioral problems are the ones most likely to have engaged in time-consuming electronic media.

Disconnections and Distractions

Good parenting might help. The study found that a scant 30% of parents actually set time limits on the use of their children’s electronic devices. If parents once knew little about what their kids were doing when out of sight, they’re more removed today than ever before.

So, what of this current generation’s ability to engage in extensive, deep level thought? Will they have any capability for reflection? Will they be able to grapple with the philosophical questions that have perplexed humankind for at least two millennia? On a social level, can they converse with one another free of electronic media? Signs are evident that they increasingly do not, but it is unclear whether they cannot.

Observe any group of school-age children who hangout together during leisure hours. One or more will be immersed in text messaging, taking photographs, talking via cell phone to someone outside of the immediate group, or employing other gadgetry.

No Generation is an Island

Okay, it’s their world, and that’s how they interact with one another. What’s the big deal? For one, no generation exists exclusively and apart from other. People born before them, not just their parents, but employers, instructors, trainers, coaches, and teachers are going to be a part of their world for the foreseeable future. The people who are born after them might be even further drones of electronic media, or perhaps not.

Concentration levels have been falling among all age groups as electronic media infiltrates more and more aspects of people’s lives. Who can sit with a 320 page book, watch an intelligent author lecture on C-SPAN, or grapple with the intricacies of foreign-policy, none of which can be conveyed in 280-character Tweets, 10-second sound bites, or thumbed-out text messages?

If you find that your children are distracted, unable to focus for more than a scant amount of time, and not able to concentrate when it’s required, don’t blame your teachers. Don’t blame the administrators. Don’t blame government officials. Look to your own parenting; that is where the problem lies.

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Take Charge or Take Cover

No outside help is on the horizon, the issue is squarely on your shoulders. The sooner you jump in, and take control, the better off your offspring will be, even if there is initial resistance and rebellion. Few avenues exist for empowering your children to use technology and not be abused by it.

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About the Author:
Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" and the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit for more information.