A recent discussion in our PhD class centered upon the lack of attention our children seem to be paying to things around them. This phenomenon, which I call "social autism" in which students are wired into iPods and mp3 players, creates people who are listening to one world while walking around in another.
However, that's just one part of the nearly eight hours per day our digital students are plugged into the electronic media. Some believe that this digital immersion may also play a part in the diagnosis of ADD and ADHD. I tend to agree. After participating in the digital world and managing chats, updating Facebook, watching a video, and listening to music all at the same time, digital students come to school and are confronted by the awesome power of the overhead projector, the whiteboard, and teachers who may be more comfortable with Jitterbug phones than feature phones or smart phones.
THIS PHENOMENON CREATES PEOPLE WHO ARE LISTENING TO ONE WORLD WHILE WALKING AROUND IN ANOTHER.
Digital learners prefer multitasking and parallel processing. They're comfortable doing several things at once. But schools still focus on processing one thing at a time, which is a very traditional and linear approach. Sociologists call multitasking "continuous partial attention." We all do it to a certain degree — we can drive, listen to music, think about the day, and look at billboard. (Please, don't text!) But it all happens much faster with the digital generation. This can make communication when we older folks sit down with the plugged-in generation difficult and frustrating at best.
We older folks were taught that the best way to study was to isolate ourselves from distractions and focus on the task at hand. Many children who still live at home will work at the computer, burn a CD, do homework, listen to 'music,' search online, and manage seven instant messenger conversations all while texting on the phone.
The truths of the Gospel message demand that we stop, think deeply and seriously about the nature of God and His Word, and reflect on our own sin and depravity. About the only thing that can make the digital citizens of our current generation do that is to be persuaded that the relationship demands of the person with whom they are now speaking and to whom they are listening has something important enough to hear that they should tune out the shallow, continuous drip, drip, drip of messaging that the electronic devices with which they spend so much time are delivering.
Make sure you understand that the clients who come into your center know how much you care before you try to communicate with them how much you know. Help them see that God loves them and their unborn children for the long haul and that He wants them to forget the world and the electronic din of their social milieu so that He can express His deep love for them.
Jerry Thacker, B.A., M.A., is President of Right Ideas, Inc., and Publisher of At the Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.