Are we on the eve of distraction?

By Craig Kennet Miller

Christopher Minms in the Wall Street Journal makes some powerful observations about what he calls “The Distraction-Industrial Complex.”  As our smartphones and apps get smarter their ability to keep us in a constant state of distraction is increasing.  With the coming of new gadgets like the iWatch and Google Glasses, constant notification alters will only become more appealing and intrusive.

I noticed this myself on my latest flight from LA to Nashville.  There was a time when fellow flyers would be cocooned with the latest novel as they clutched their paperback books in their hands.  Now everyone seems to be linked up to a tablet or smartphone with their ears tethered to earbuds or headphones.   Gone are the days when a child would sit quietly with a book to read or color in a coloring book.  Instead, each child is glued to their techgear, stabbing at the screen with their tiny fingers as they interact with their favorite game.

While the confinement of a plane makes every anxious parent look for a way to keep their child quiet, one suspects that home life is not much different.  Major corporations from Comcast or Time-Warner who provide you with WiFi to Amazon and Microsoft who provide you with movies or games, all have in their best interest families that are connected 24/7 to their services.

The creators of Google, Facebook, and Twitter are eager to keep you and your family connected to them at all times.  Whether at home or on the go, their business model is built on keeping you busy.

For Mims this is not a good thing.  He says research points to the fact that the distractions generated by our devices keeps us from being productive, causes us to lose our ability to think, and to focus on one thing for long periods of time. “In a world full of interruptions, we can’t win.”  If we decide to turn off our techgear we become afraid we are going to miss out on something important.  If we keep them on, we are on constant alert — never giving our brains a rest.

His solution is a radical one – turn the Internet off.  Or create a space where you can’t get it.

As we think of iKids and their development, his idea is worth considering.  If not turning it off completely, at least turning it off at set time of the week.  Maybe on Friday evenings or Sunday mornings or after 8:00 pm.   While adults need down time, it is even more essential for children and teens to have open space to think, to create, to learn, and to talk to someone real – like you.


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