Does he/she have difficulty with follow-through? I’ve been a special education teacher for 18 years and although the majority of my students have been easily distracted due to ADD and ADHD, I find lack of focus pervasive across the terrain of students from elementary to high school levels. There are so many reasons for a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD. Some of them may have to do with inherited tendencies, poor nutrition, a large amount of heavy metals in the blood and organs, or poor internal supervision (having to do with the inability of the frontal cortex of the brain to think about what you are going to do and say before you do it). And, there are many more reasons for this complex problem.
One thing I do know is we’re literally living in the age of distraction, where attention and focus are vastly diminished. Why is this? I think that we are on overload having too many sources of information. I think technology is the culprit, and although it has obvious benefits, it also leads to decreased attention and focus. I know personally, before I can even get started on a project I need to accomplish, I must address over 150 new emails each day, answer text messages, and often attend a webinar in my field of interest. It’s no wonder I get so distracted, I sometimes feel inadequate to actually accomplish my goals.
Imagine upping the ante for kids who conservatively spend 7 or 8 hours a day between texting, surfing the web, listening to their iPod, watching videos, and playing video games. (There’s evidence video games can be addictive, harmful and habit-forming). Add homework to this mix, and you have the perfect storm for being ineffectual, and stressed out. We simply have too many sources of information, and an overload of sensory input.
The brains of our youth are being re-wired, and the frontal lobes of the brain are being interfered with – so much so that all this sensory input is overriding our kids’ ability to really process information in a significant way. We have created a culture of skimming, surfing, and inattention.
Many will disagree, and say technology has created new ways of thinking, and that there are tremendous benefits to the computer such as the ability to index every word and phrase in a document, and to search all of them in an instant. This is true and valid, and we know the computer has been able to make dramatic differences in the way we think. In fact, a pro to video games is that they can also improve some components of IQ!
BUT the idea of compromise needs to be looked at. One of my suggestions is that for children of school age, TV and all video games should be limited to perhaps one hour a day. That may be a hard rule to invoke in your household — particularly if you are not home to supervise. I’m not saying there isn’t some wiggle room in there, but as parents, it is your job to set the rules.