Device Flicking

I’ve often reflected on my teenage daughter’s abilities to multi-task with multiple digital devices and still produce amazing pieces of school work. I frequently come home from work to see her sat on the floor in the living room with the TV on, the laptop on her knees so she can type up her school work, whilst ‘MSNing’ her friends from school (probably about matters I do not want to know about!), updating our dog’s popular Facebook profile and sometimes she even manages to squeeze in a bit of collaboration in an online game through her Nintendo DSi with an old friend from our days in Sheffield all at the same time. Maybe you see similar behaviour with your own children too?

A recent publication from ChildWise (the leading research specialist on children, teenagers and their parents) reports that one in three children told their researchers the possession they could least live without was their computer. The survey of 1,800 children ranging between the ages of 5 and 16, which was undertaken last autumn, found they were spending on average 2.7 hours per day watching television, 1.5 hours on the Internet and 1.3 hours on games consoles.

It was also reported that a casualty of all this screen time has been reading – with only 0.6 hours per day on average and with the number of children reading for pleasure in their own time falling from 80% last year to 75%.

All of this interests me (even if it does not worry me) because in October 2008 the Next Generation Learning initiative was launched to ensure all of England’s school-age children have computer access at home. In January 2009 the Oxford University Press attempted to get boys to enjoy reading with books illustrated with computer- generated images.

I sometimes interrupt my daughter and ask how she copes with all this information, technology and tasks simultaneously – she just stares back at me with a blank expression on her face and says, “It’s natural!”

Is this the latest phase of evolution? Are we developing and promoting a new generation of multi-taskers who will be able to cope with all the stresses and strains of modern employment?

Matthew Wheeler

Keeper of the Media Zoo 

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  1. Teaching at a research-led, dual-mode university « Beyond Distance Research Alliance Blog

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