I’ve been, and continue to be, an Electronics Nazi. Yet I still have to constantly fight and re-evaluate the use of electronics in the household. This isn’t going to change but I’ve become aware of an additional problem with the electronics: multi-tasking. I admire people who can multi-task. My wife and her best friend are queens of the skill, but does that carryover to the use of electronics?
We have one family computer that remains in the family room, open to viewing by all. Both my wife and I have laptops for ourselves, but we only permit the kids to utilize them if the family PC isn’t working. If it’s working, then the kids just have to share and wait their turn and they generally do well with that situation. But what happens when the kid spends time multi-tasking the electronics? Does the television need to be run while the kid listens to iTunes, texts their friends while sending IM messages to another batch? How much is too much? That’s the source of my present concern.
Certainly, I’ve tossed the kid off of the computer while multi-tasking. If there’s homework, turn off the IM and cellphone and get the job done so that the PC is available to others. If there’s no homework and you’re just messing around, then get off of the PC and let someone else use it while you content yourself with texting and music. But what if there’s no other demand for the machine?
I have two concerns about this, even though I have nothing to substantiate them. The first is that the multi-tasking will have an impact upon the critical thinking skills. Yes, the child can handle two simultaneous conversations amongst multiple persons, but what’s the quality of those conversations? It’s akin to saying that I can juggle and ride a unicycle simultaneously, but I can’t handle more than two balls. Will the children develop thinking skills that permit them to penetrate to deeper understanding of an issue or situation?
The second concern is more social. I was raised to be able to speak well, but with the notion that good manners required that I actually pay attention to someone with whom I was conversing. Flitting back and forth amongst two different conversations was actually rude and indicated to the other person that he wasn’t really worth my time. Indeed, I once walked out of a date when the woman refused to turn off her television and contended that she was perfectly capable of paying attention to our conversation while simultaneously watching The Dukes of Hazzard. Sorry, but I’m not coming over to share you with John Schneider, Tom Wopat and Boss Hogg. If the kids believe that they can skip blithely back and forth on the screen, why can’t they do it in real-time?
I have no answers. Yet.