Distracting Gadgets

By Susan Black

Last year, Vishal, a 17-year-old senior at Woodside High School in California’s Silicon Valley, pushed aside an unfinished pile of homework that included a worksheet for Latin, a reading assignment for English, and an essay for economics. Instead of doing his work, he stayed up past 2 a.m. playing video games, connecting to social networks, and browsing the Internet.

“I’m used to doing a million things at once,” Vishal told Matt Richtel, a New York Times journalist who wrote “Your Brain on Computers,” a five-part series, in 2010. Vishal said he found playing video games and skimming through computer sites more stimulating than doing schoolwork.

Vishal was a top-notch student until seventh grade, the year he began spending hours on a home computer. Each year his grades got worse. In 12th grade, he abandoned his AP courses, failed Algebra II, and got a D in English. His only success was an A in a technology course that involved creating online videos.

Other Woodside students have fallen into similar habits, Richtel wrote. In an extreme case, a 14-year-old girl sent and received some 27,000 text messages in one month, often at a “blistering pace.” At times, the girl carried on as many as seven text conversations simultaneously. Like Vishal, her grades plummeted.

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