One City

One City


Generation Distracted

posted by Davee Evans

2009mediause.png

by Davee Evans

The Kaiser Family Foundation found a huge increase in TV, music, phone, computer, and video game usage among 8-18 year olds compared to just five years ago. Their study was published this month. Also increased is the amount of multi-tasking in that age range, where kids are using two devices at once; for example, texting while watching youtube videos or talking on the phone while watching TV.

I don’t think this is just the kids. As soon as the topic drifts a little in meetings at work, I see people pull out their Blackberries and iPhones. When I come home at night often I find my housemates in front of the TV, watching Family Guy or the Daily Show, but both of them are also typing away on their laptops. I fall pray to this all the time, and soon the rumored Apple tablet and similar devices will make it even easier to have rich content in a decent size wherever I go.

But if this under-18 study is indicative, the whole world is heading toward an even more multi-tasked and media soaked lifestyle.

I don’t think kids should be completely removed from it all, unless you want them to grow up both luddites and thoroughly disconnected from their friends. The future is digital communication. It’s an increasingly necessary part of being in community.

But there is such a need for self-awareness in all of this. The technology is moving forward at an amazing pace and won’t slow down. And it’s increasingly interruptive and engaging. So our only true path to avoid increasing distraction and addiction is cultivating awareness: seeing how they are impact our lives; pay attention to the karmic repercussions basically.

The New York Times interviewed the study’s authors, who described the results as shocking in part because the pace was increasing. From 2004 to 2009 the amount of time increased much faster than from the same period between 1999 and 2004. All totaled, the study found the amount of time kids spent on these activities increased from 6.5 to 7.5 hours per day, and when multi-tasking was accounted they were packing almost 11 hours now into those 7.5: an increase of 2.25 hours of content from just five years ago.

The Amish have a thoughtful approach, carefully considering each piece of technology before allowing it into their community. I applaud their discipline. My approach has been haphazard and much less effective. I slowly notice that I’m spending too much time on something, and not seeing friends as much as I’d like, before I make any changes to my habits.

What to do?

I should try tracking my time, along the lines of this study, carefully for a day now and then, especially given my project this year imagining that I have only a year to live. I should know better where that time is going.

Then secondly, I should cultivate awareness of when I’m multi-tasking and when I have the urge to reach into that world. Am I checking emails in a meeting, for example, and is that really necessary? Do I really need to send that text right now? Do I reach for my iPhone first thing each morning, to see if any new and exciting emails have arrived while I was asleep? But this is going to be a real practice for me.

What does this mean for teaching dharma? Definitely that distraction and speed is going to be an ongoing topic, and reconnecting to our body and the present moment will be a common theme. I think getting comfortable with boredom is also going to be worth emphasizing and working with, if entertainment is one of the drivers in this. And if the world is ever moving to rich digital media, we should keep moving the transmission of dharma to more modern forms like youtube, podcasts, and mobile devices. It’s just the reality of the time we live in.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(19)
post a comment
laura

posted January 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm


A very important topic.
This morning I hit the snooze button, on my iphone, and then caught myself just as I was about to check my email, on my iphone. I briefly wondered, do I really need to check my email before I’m even fully awake? And then I went ahead and checked it out of habit. What if instead I had spent those few minutes just breathing and feeling what it was like to wake up, and then feeling what it was like to place my feet on the ground and start another day?
Later, while having coffee with a friend, she got up from the table to get something and I reached for my iphone. Halfway through punching in my passcode, I reminded myself that I don’t need to fill every down moment with electronic communication. I put the phone down and just sat there sipping my tea. It was pleasant, and grounding.
I seem to spend the vast majority of my day in direct contact with my iphone and/or my laptop. I find it increasingly challenging to stop and be in the real world instead of in the virtual world. I think a lot of people feel the same way.
If you do track your time for a day I’d be interested to hear what you learned.



report abuse
 

Davee

posted January 21, 2010 at 11:16 pm


Thank you for the comment and those examples, all things I relate to as well.



report abuse
 

Davee

posted January 21, 2010 at 11:33 pm


I should add that I was so distracted getting for work this morning, and preparing this post, that I completely forgot my laptop when going to work. I arrived sans computer altogether, dumbfounded. Perhaps it is really me that’s distracted more so than “those kids”



report abuse
 

Al

posted January 22, 2010 at 6:59 am


I’m a teacher and I’ve been teaching for over 20 years. This is not impirical, I know, but it used to be that it was normal if I had one or two kids in my class with ADD or ADHD; it was normal as far as frequency rates go. This year, my elementary class is one-third ADD or ADHD or learning disabled in some way. Harsh identities for children to grow up with. Several years ago, I read about a study that indicated that part of what might be causing ADD is that parents allow their children under the age of two to watch TV. The frequency of image changes on TV is huge. The image changes every few seconds or less. That frequency of attention to an image may become hardwired in a young brain. After the age of two, it becomes incredibly difficult for the brain to pay attention for longer periods of time than those few seconds on a TV screen. I have always thought about that as I’ve watched the ADD rates grow year after year. 20 years ago, most of my kids were inventive and adaptive and were able to accept that not every assignment will be fun. They had stamina and verve. Now, entertainment is expected. Certainly, educational activities can be very fun, but sometimes you simply have to work. I have many students who don’t invent games, have trouble learning new games, have little stamina, and don’t adapt to new situations easily. (Of course I also have many thoughtful and resilient students too.) Evan, I think you are sooo right. We should mindfully examine the way technology is impacting our lives. It is possible, likely even, that we are harming ourselves.



report abuse
 

Al

posted January 22, 2010 at 7:00 am


Sorry, Davee, I remembered your name wrong. I’ll get it right next time. Talk about ADD.



report abuse
 

Patrick

posted January 22, 2010 at 7:05 am


I’m not entirely sure the gadgets have anything to do with it. I think it is the human condition. As I was reading this I remembered, as a child, sitting at the breakfast table, eating Cheerios and reading the box. I read the same box every day. It isn’t very exciting reading, but I read it every day. If I were to sit down to a bowl of Cheerios now, I would read the box. But now I find my eyes seeking the newspaper.
I have gotten rid of the TV. I don’t get a major newspaper, just the local 6 page daily. My cell is a toy that my wife and daughter call me on, no texting. There is the web… But anyway, I still multitask.
My point is, we will find distractions. We will multitask. Give a boy a stick, he will conquer the world, all the way home from school.
In fact mindfulness is mindfulness, regardless of the amounts of toys.



report abuse
 

Davee

posted January 23, 2010 at 5:50 pm


Great observations from the front line, Al. Thank you for sharing those. I can easily see how the bar has been raised for ‘entertainment’ as it’s easier to get and use rich media at those younger age ranges – as both educational material and as a way to take a break as a parent. Perhaps it’s thereby indirectly related to increasing demands on parents as they’re less likely to live near extended family or have strong community or have to work more hours.
Thanks for the comment Patrick. I am concerned that it’s somewhat device related, and as younger and younger kids get cell phones and gaming devices that kind of affordance will have an impact in and of itself. But I agree it’s mostly about culture and what’s considered the norm, and what’s needed in order to stay attuned to one’s peer group.
In the last couple days I’ve now been noticing more my own tendency to “fill the gaps” and check for more email or status updates/tweets or similar. It’s so easy for me to fill every last minute, no gaps of time might be “wasted”. All very interesting to notice.



report abuse
 

AstroLunar

posted January 24, 2010 at 10:49 am


I guess you are right. We have to go with the flow. With the technology flow without forgetting the teachings of the Dharma. I must say that they can get along very well.



report abuse
 

AstroLunar

posted January 24, 2010 at 10:49 am


I guess you are right. We have to go with the flow. With the technology flow without forgetting the teachings of the Dharma. I must say that they can get along very well.



report abuse
 

Tamara

posted January 24, 2010 at 11:28 am


Patrick — I agree with you. I believe the issue is not so much multi-tasking and gadgets as the focus on “play things”. I believe it is a different, yet limited, form of play; i.e. giving the boy a stick.
Multi-tasking has been around since we had to hunt and gather (need I say especially for women!).
I had a discussion the other day with a fellow baby boomer: we commented on how we used to play outside all day. Kids need distractions from life through socializations/friendships and play, it is just a different world where it is safer to “play” through gadgets and electronic media entertainment. As a kid, I would be off somewhere in the neighborhood all day without a worry to my parents. Not possible today.
The goal, I suppose, is to me mindful about attitudes. Is it Buddha- like to waste time playing ipod solitaire after hours of multi-tasking?



report abuse
 

Tamara

posted January 24, 2010 at 11:46 am


correction last line of my comment above:
The goal, I suppose, is to BE mindful about attitudes. Is it Buddha-like to waste time playing ipod solitaire after hours of multi-tasking?
(sorry, I was multitasking while writing)



report abuse
 

Davee

posted January 24, 2010 at 12:48 pm


Thanks AstroLunar.
Tamara, you’re reminding me of a theory I first heard from danah boyd, that the increased use of social media among kids (at the time MySpace primarily) was a result of the “culture of fear” that we increasingly live within. Parents don’t let kids roam as freely. She wrote about it in 2005 on her blog:
http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2005/11/02/growing_up_in_a.html
This also reminds me of a study that showed while murders were down 50% in LA over a 10 year period (I think from 1990 to 2000) the impression among citizens was that they were up 600%. The discrepancy was attributed by the study authors to the increased media coverage of each crime. So while actual crime was hugely reduced, the impression in the public was that it was way up. And I could see how if you’re a parent and think crime is up 600% you wouldn’t let your kids out of the house. And then they’re on MySpace (now facebook) all the time instead to get that socialization which is no longer as possible in person.
Therefore, increased awareness around crime and sensational news coverage has this side effect, if you believe these various theories, of greatly increased technology usage among kids.



report abuse
 

Tamara

posted January 24, 2010 at 1:28 pm


Interesting, Davee. I will read the article.
I think too, that there are innumerable other concerns to letting your kids roam: STD’s, kidnapping, drugs, prescription drugs, peer pressures, . . . the “boogy man” is everywhere. It must be just as frightening for kids to be “out there”. Are some small kids afraid of earthquakes now?
Inside has it’s dangers as well. Just watch Dr. Phil to see how frightening the home can be. If I were a kid, I would probably find a gameboy or casual happy interactions with parents while watching TV to be the safest place.



report abuse
 

Spence

posted January 24, 2010 at 2:51 pm


What’s disturbing to me is the fact that an entire generation feels entitled to free “content”…The record business has virtually collapsed, as it’s easier to illegally download records than to purchase them..You can watch free movies on-line, and even download best sellers…So, are the writers, filmakers, and musicians supposed to work for free from now on? It looks like that’s the pattern to expect…



report abuse
 

Davee

posted January 24, 2010 at 10:18 pm


Yes, Tamara, exactly what I was getting at. The true incidence of kidnapping, STD’s, drug use, etc. might be way down but we think it’s actually significantly worse – and we keep our kids inside.
Hello Spence, that topic I love discussing. Now the cost of duplicating digital media is effectively or nearly zero. Therefore the business models of media necessarily must adjust. When radio was first introduced, there was a similar adjustment. I’d really recommend this TED lecture by Professor Larry Lessig about copyright laws and their evolution. It’s really good and he concludes with some of his thoughts on how to move forward that still supports creativity in this digital era:
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html
He notes when ASCAP tried to control radio broadcasting when it first arrived. Then BMI arose to embrace the new technology more openly with a more diverse selection of music, including african american musicians that ASCAP ignored. And the end result of the free radio broadcasting model was openness won out, and arguably that more artists benefitted ultimately. I think the same will be true if we relax the current copyright laws instead of hardening them further, in the face of this digital world. But yes, artists should be paid for their work. But they will likely have to garner more revenue from live performance than before, since the economics of distribution that has changed so dramatically so quickly. In my opinion.
Lessig also notes some reasons why young people today might believe the current laws are invalid, and what he thinks about that, as if to answer your point quite directly.



report abuse
 

Rob

posted January 25, 2010 at 9:24 am


Multi-tasking is really just doing two or more things at once – poorly. We are becoming increasingly intolerant of a more humane pace of life. We seem to have the need to fill every moment with something. What is the cost of all this? Are we filling a void? How are these gadgets affecting our ability to relate to one another? What does this do to our ability to focus?
I, for one, severely limit the amount of TV that my (almost) 3 year-old gets – and I will continue to do so. I know that reality frequently gets in the way of my child-rearing plans, but I hope to keep my daughter firmly in the realm of human interaction. I see enough of teens who become inanimate as soon as they are forced to do something that does not involve something wireless and their thumbs to know that not much good comes from interacting with the world through an artificial interface.



report abuse
 

Anan E. Maus

posted January 26, 2010 at 10:47 am


this once, again, is another example of us letting corporations lead us down a road…because they want to sell widgets…
rather than us, as a society, dictating to corporations, where we want them to go…to serve us.
it is a very backwards way to run society.
Maybe as a society we need to build more parks and playgrounds and get people out of the house and off of the various idiot boxes that we are now letting absorb our kids lives.
And this is the thing…when people get an initiative to do just that, corporations respond with lobbying campaigns to advocate for their position – greater sales. Why do we allow this to be the case?
They are allowed to advocate against the basic needs of society!!
Do folks remember when Coca-cola tried to introduce breakfast soda???
How outrageous was that? So, what, our kids were supposed to drink a soda with caffeine instead of milk or juice? Why do we allow these companies to rule the intimate details of our lives? It is lunacy.
I don’t mean to suggest that corporations are some big evil entity. I don’t think they are. I just think we don’t direct them properly. Corporations often respond in the other direction…that of true service to society. V-8 used to be the old health drink and when their sales were impacted by other products, they began to develop juice products with all sorts of great combos, including
juices high in anti-oxidants. Corporations can actually make money serving our real needs, not just forcing us down a road that is opposite to what is good for us!!! That is the real tragedy. That we can have a very healthy economy that also serves what we truly need!!
Sure, the festival of fun widgets is neat too watch. But, isn’t it just a bit scary that we can take some of society’s best minds to develop these ever more fascinating tools, yet basic issues like poverty and hunger remain pervading crises? It is a little nutz, no?



report abuse
 

Davee

posted January 29, 2010 at 11:09 am


Steve Silberman just penned a commentary on related topics, for the March 2010 issue of Shambhala Sun, which is a true joy to read:
http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3492&Itemid=0
I agree Anan there is some serious lunacy in all this. Love the breakfast soda example. I heard recently that all the health gains from reduced smoking in the last few years have been wiped out by the increase in obesity. I’m cutting high fructose corn syrup out of my diet as much as I can:
http://blogs.consumerreports.org/health/2008/10/high-fructose-c.html



report abuse
 

Fiona

posted March 10, 2011 at 8:18 pm


A wonderful post. Thank you. It is indeed a topic that as a mum and mindfulness teacher I often ponder over … that is, the world that my daughter is coming into. She already knows how to use an ipad and she is 10 months now! I imagine that the more conscious I can become the more I can help her navigate the world around her consciously too. Jon Kabat Zinn writes a wonderful book for parents called Mindful Parenting where he discusses this in more detail – a definite recommendation to those interested in that area.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting One City. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Most Recent Buddhist Story By Beliefnet Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!

posted 2:29:05pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Mixing technology and practice
There were many more good sessions at the Wisdom 2.0 conference this weekend. The intention of the organizers is to post videos. I'll let you know when. Here are some of my notes from a second panel. How do we use modern, social media technologies — such as this blog — to both further o

posted 3:54:40pm May. 02, 2010 | read full post »

Wisdom 2.0
If a zen master were sitting next to the chief technical officer of Twitter, what would they talk about? That sounds like a hypothetical overheared at a bar in San Francisco. But this weekend I saw the very thing at Soren Gordhamer's Wisdom 2.0 conference — named after his book of the same nam

posted 1:43:19pm May. 01, 2010 | read full post »

The Buddha at Work - "All we are is dust in the wind, dude."
"The only true wisdom consists of knowing that you know nothing." - Alex Winter, as Bill S. Preston, Esq. in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure"That's us, dude!" - Keanu Reeves, as Ted "Theodore" LoganWhoa! Excellent! I've had impermanence on my mind recently. I've talked about it her

posted 2:20:00pm Jan. 28, 2010 | read full post »

Sometimes You Find Enlightenment by Punching People in the Face
This week I'm curating a guest post from Jonathan Mead, a friend who inspires by living life on his own terms and sharing what he can with others.  To quote from Jonathan's own site, Illuminated Mind: "The reason for everything: To create a revolution based on authentic action. A social movemen

posted 12:32:23pm Jan. 27, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.