Are iPads, smartphones, and the Mobile Web rewiring the way we think?
Multitasking on smartphones, iPads, and the Mobile Web makes some feel smarter and others just more scattered. Is it changing how we think?
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The world, as Internet visionary Ted Nelson has written, is "intertwingly," full of cross-connections among myriad topics that can't be neatly divided up. Those chains of relationships map neatly with hyperlinks and the "webby" online world. The discomfort being felt by those old enough to have known a world without the Internet may not persist, Weinberger says. "Now we have a generation coming up that hasn't lived through the transition" from a print world to an online world, he says.Skip to next paragraph
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No one, including Carr and Wolf, argues that people in the 21st century can or should stop using the Internet and gadgets that link to it. And no one really knows what the right amount of online activity should be or how individuals can best manage it.
"It has to begin with people questioning [the use of technology] in their own lives," offers Carr, who says he didn't intend his book to provide answers so much as to examine the problem. "We're all responsible for how we spend our time and the choices we make."
People addicted to being online are not going to stop using the Internet altogether, "anymore than a food addict is going to stop eating food," says Kimberly Young, a psychologist in Bradford, Pa., who is founder and director of The Center for Internet Addiction Recovery.
For children, getting them involved in real-world activities is a start, she says.
"If young people are engaged in band, swimming, extracurricular things where they're meeting other kids, I think they're OK," says Dr. Young, who notes that while Internet addiction has not been formally recognized as a mental problem in the United States, it is already being treated by professionals such as herself.
Wolf makes sure she stays off-line at specific times. "For a half hour before bedtime and a half hour in the morning I do nothing digital," she says.
Even if we've lost our ability to read deeply, we can regain it. "Our brains are very adaptable and flexible," Carr adds. "If you change your habits, your brain is very happy to go along. The hard thing is to change your habits."
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Meanwhile, Wade Warren's mom, Stephania Serena, is living on the front lines, trying to decide how to manage her son's immersion in the digital world he spends so much of his life in.
"I'm not the perfect role model necessarily for my kids. I work on the computer, I'm on a lot," says Ms. Serena, who is a designer and photographer. "It's crazy. I think we need to be more disciplined and it's really hard." She's been known to keep working on her iPhone while trying to fix dinner at the same time.
"I think it's hard enough for adults, but it's a million times harder for kids," she says.
She knows Wade is a child of the Internet. "One of his first sentences was 'on, off, peto.' 'On, off, computer.' He called it 'peto.' We have a little recording of it," she says.
It may come down to personal responsibility. "You have to be in charge. You can't let the computer be in charge," she allows.
Wade did some cooking with her during the week his gadgets were hidden away, and his mom noticed the new level of attention to others. "Since then we've been making ice cream," she says. "I wish he spent more time outdoors, but we're getting there."