'Hyperconnected' young people may suffer fragmented lives

Posted by Kate Taylor

Today's teenagers could suffer all their lives from the effects of their 'hyperconnected' lifestyles, say a panel of experts surveyed by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Many of the technology experts, teachers and others surveyed  said they thought that the 'always on' lifestyle would have positive effects, such as improving their ability to multitask.

However, the panel of 1,021 people also believed that this generation will exhibit a thirst for instant gratification and quick fixes, a loss of patience, and a lack of deep-thinking ability.

"While 55 percent agreed with the statement that the future for the hyperconnected will generally be positive, many who chose that view noted that it is more their hope than their best guess, and a number of people said the true outcome will be a combination of both scenarios," says Pew.

Most agreed that the changing world means that different skills will be valuable in the future.

They cited public problem-solving through cooperative work, or crowd-sourcing; the ability to search effectively for information online, and then sift the wheat from the chaff; synthesizing information from many different sources; communication and concentration.

Many participants, particularly teachers, were gloomy about kids' prospects.

"Based on my experience in a university library setting, I have seen a general decline in higher-order thinking skills in my students over the past decade," says one.

"What I generally see is an over-dependence on technology, an emphasis on social technologies as opposed to what I'll call ‘comprehension technologies,’ and a general disconnect from deeper thinking."

And there are concerns that such attitudes will stand them in poor stead when it comes to the world of work.

"Much of the social networking and multitasking activities revolve around a hunger to be popular," says one respondent.

"The 'I'm getting texted continually shows I’m popular' frame of mind is pathetic. This type of behavior will not be tolerated in business and industry, especially in the manufacturing sector."