|March 22, 2023|
Multi-tasking mostly distracting?
Children born in the 21st century come into an age dominated by information technology. Computers, the Internet, cell phones and video games all compete for the attention of young people, as well as many adults. And experts say that the constant use of such devices can affect the way people think.
It's estimated Americans now consume three times as much information each day as they did in 1960, and surveys show that students in the U.S. spend at least six hours a day using electronic devices. Many of these students use several types of media at once; for example, listening to an iPod and working on the computer, while a television plays in the background.
But this 'multitasking' as it's called may not be so new. In fact, some feel it's as old as humanity itself.
James Olds, a neuroscience professor at George Mason University, says that multitasking has advantages that enhance survival. He cites the example of a commercial airline pilot, whose attention must be divided among many sources of information.
But other researchers say that each time a person switches tasks, it takes twice as much time to complete the task. And Steven Yantis, a brain scientist at Johns Hopkins University, says that people who use several forms of media at once, so-called 'high media multitaskers' are even more easily distracted.
"The high media multitaskers were always in a state of looking at multiple sources of information simultaneously, and so they found it more difficult to ignore information that they knew was irrelevant," Yantis notes. "And that distracting information impaired their ability to focus on the task at hand."
Scientists say that the human brain continues developing well into a person's 20s, but the effect of constant multitasking on brain development is not known. And like a computer, the human brain has a limited amount of information it can process at once, according to Steven Yantis.
"Although there are billions and billions of neurons, so it has very high capacity, it's not infinite, it's limited, and so we are constantly having to make choices about what we're going to devote our mind to."
Psychologists continue to study the effect of the Internet on learning, but initial research shows that Internet use can have a positive effect on standardized reading test scores of children. Unlike television, home Internet use is interactive, and experts say it encourages young people to be more self-directed learners. (Source: voanews.com)
Story Date: July 15, 2010