ritalin

Are we mislabeling youthful curiosity?

comic

After seeing this cartoon, it seems to me like every other child these days is diagnosed with ADD or ADHD and medicated to “calm them down.” But are we mislabeling youthful curiosity for a behavior disorder because the solution makes it easier to deal with today’s hyper-stimulated children?

ADHD is a very real issue for some people, and you can generally tell who those people are as they are bored easily and generally more active in terms of needing to be doing something at all times. But with regards to children, the ones who are acting out or labeled as troublesome are all getting labeled with some form of ADD rather than seen as just being kids.

But is it really so out of place for children today to be so active? They grew up in a world where everything is instantaneous and computerized, so they are used to things happening a certain way. Most people call it “over stimulation,” but I don’t think that’s the right way to describe it. I think it’s just a case of more readily available stimulation, meaning that you get answers or results right away and are ready to move on to other things faster than ever. We need to keep in mind that this is the only way children know how to be, so we need to change our expectations of how to reach them and relate to them.

When I was growing up the big complaints were that we were expected to know how to do certain calculations without a calculator, or do research in a library and without using the internet so much because they weren’t available in the past; we were constantly told how lucky we were that we had our TI-89 calculators or access to the internet (remember, this was mid 90s internet so comparatively it wasn’t much) to help us with our homework and projects. These days every 4 year old can use their parents’ smartphones and laptops with ease, so of course by the time they get to school they are used to the world that gives them things instantly. I thought that I would feel that kind of anger toward today’s youth because they have it easier when it comes to finding resources to learn something, like I would want them to do research papers the way I did and have to use all library books and no internet. Instead I’m envious that they have so many electronic resources to help them, and hope that they utilize them to the fullest. Of course, there is nothing like opening an actual book to find information, and library research is still a useful skill to have, but there should be a way to better integrate modern technology into learning. Rather than dissuading us from using the (limited) internet we had at the time, I wish schools had embraced the growing technology and taught us proper ways to research websites for information; computer classes were still just an elective, not required.

Take into account the high speed internet, smart phones, iPads, cable TV, Netflix, video games, and so on that the iEverything generation has to deal with on a regular basis. It’s not a bad thing, and I don’t think it’s “over-stimulation,” just the way of the world. Times change, and it’s best to find ways to adapt to this techno-savvy world so that kids find it just a natural to learn things at school as it is turning on their Xbox to play games. Instead of having to compete with Youtube and video games for children’s attentions, we should find ways to integrate them into school and education to make it seem less “boring” to them.

Having this stimulation increase is only making it harder for kids today to learn because we haven’t found enough ways to teach them with it. Perhaps instead of kids getting in trouble for using their phones in class, find a way to make them useful, like extra credit texts or something along those lines. New game console get released that has all the kids distracted by video gaming? Let them play certain games and then debate each other on which game or console is better and why. “Over-stimulation” doesn’t have to be the enemy if we find a way to utilize it to everyone’s advantage, and teach kids a way to balance all the available input in their lives.

Tracey Woodard
Tracey Woodard
tracey.woodard@franklinfound.org

<p>Our Senior contributor Tracey Woodard graduated in 2010 from Bucknell University with a BA in English – Creative Writing and Theater. An advid believer in the importance of public school education, she uses a mix of personal and learned experiences to express her thoughts on today’s most pressing education issues. She currently resides just outside of Philadelphia, PA.</p>

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