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Steinberg: Can you finish reading this?

August 27, 2011|By Leigh Steinberg

I decided to take a break from finishing a book project on parenting youth athletes to escape to the sanctuary of 24 Fitness. There were a series of patrons in front using their cellphones. I heard "pig iron" transactions conducted in the locker room and critical gossip from weekend warriors on the cardio equipment.

One resourceful athlete figured out a way to maintain a discussion while showering. Very few people were focusing on the joys of a Saturday in the gym, they were ensconced in their "communication cocoons." A technological advance designed to bring the world closer actually served to isolate users from any meaningful personal interaction.

I had been writing on the importance of young athletes focusing on the guidance provided by coaches and realized that the technological revolution actually has a stultifying effect on focus. I grew up in a world of black-and-white television and rotary phones. My friends and I thought it was a thrilling activity to walk out of the house in the morning, play sports all day with our friends and not returning until our mothers called us for dinner. At the risk of sounding like my parents, complaining about "walking to school in a snowstorm," I wonder about the effect that social media has on our children and their attention span.

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They grow up surrounded by sensory stimulation. Big screen HD television with surround-sound overwhelms the central nervous system. I watched my middle boy wear earphones while playing combat video games, hooked up with other players around the world. At my daughter's 11th slumber birthday party, all 10 girls had cellphones. They spent the night texting each other in the same room.

They downloaded all the hottest musical hits. It is hard to go through a meal with them without their thumbs engaging in nonstop texting. I was terrified that my daughter had a thumb disease that produced perpetual motion. The production values on television allow rapid bursts of stimuli.

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