‘Asking the brain to shift attention from one activity to another causes the prefrontal cortex and striatum to burn up oxygenated glucose, the same fuel they need to stay on task.’
If you want to hold court at the dinner table with the kiddos, consider discussing Why the modern world is bad for your brain. We live at the historical moment where the younger generation has no practical memory of the analogue, pre-Cloud world while the older generation, who has one foot standing in the emerging digital reality, has the other foot still squarely planted in the analogue.
"Back when I was a kid...," kind of stuff. And the boys roll their eyes, eyes more comfortable when affixed to their ubiquitous Instagram and Twitter feeds than locked in with a person in conversation or with a paragraph of prose.
Maybe civilization experienced similar inter-generational angst when oral tradition gave way to writing, when hand-made tools were supplanted by the Industrial Revolution, when the horse lost out to the automobile...shoot, when the first kid showed up to class with a calculator! In all epocs, humanity survived, even thrived. We will adapt and thrive again.
When we emerge in a half century from now having learned the good, the bad, and the ugly about (to pick a few hot topics) the risks of multitasking, the loss of handwriting, the new frontier of the Cloud and how it will support much of life as we know it, much by then will be settled and much will be learned about practical utility and proven methodologies. By then, those of us with that analogue foot will be long gone. The transition from one stage to another will be complete.
Until then, however, those of us who labor unto the breach wrestle with teaching an increasingly digitally-enamored boy how much concentration is required in order to compose a salient paragraph for a coherent character analysis. From there, he must string a few of those paragraphs together while handwriting legible class notes in support of said task, being able to read a fellow human's cursive pen from time to time, reading extended prose and capturing the author's tone, context, and purpose...these are skills enhancing our humanity, in any age, under any technology.
What the author warns us about today is that we are compromising both cognitive and physical performance when our children (and adults) constantly multitask. We risk creating conditions whereby we are unable to produce extended effort on a task that requires depth of concentration and prolonged, sustained effort. Good test scores, which a lot of our boys have, do not directly correlate with analytical skills and strong stamina, which a lot of boys do not have. They are often weak and not tough-minded.
But they are young works in progress, and we love them. We will continue to work long hours in support of their emerging abilities, volatile as their results can be in the short term. On our watch, the boys do gain confidence based upon their demonstrated effort (with parental patience), and that discipline leads to their happiness and personal power, ultimately feeding their ability to make a life for themselves of their own choosing having been nudged away from their avoidance and back into their daily responsibilities, benefiting our present community, and sharpening their personal character, one task at a time.