In the last month I have seen several references to the havoc that information overload can wreak on our brain power. (Most recently the cover article, “Brain Freeze,” from the March 7 issue of Newsweek.) In light of watching my youngest daughter grow up in an age of constant, excessive stimuli, I couldn’t be more pleased with this publicity. Researchers are putting statistics to what I have intuited and felt for years: my ability to produce and make good decisions slides downhill when I am bombarded with too much information, especially all at one time.

Is my slowed processing because my brain is aging and I just can’t keep up with the lightspeed of information? Maybe. Should I not worry about my children because the rub is that young people can handle constant multiple stimuli? Definitely not, even though this is the impression I walked away with after reading a very good but very disconcerting article last summer about teen study habits. The article maintained that a productive norm for teenage studying includes simultaneous homework, music, and Internet chatting including social networking, AND texting on their phones. REALLY?!  I was starting to feel inadequate – I can’t even turn on music anymore when I write, much less add all the other input.

But articles like “Brain Freeze” give me an opportunity to open a dialogue with my school-age daughter, who, at 11, is still young enough to believe and accept the sincerity in my viewpoint. It helps me validate why she doesn’t yet need a cell phone, and she shouldn’t be playing Nintendo DS or watching “Wizards of Waverly Place” while doing her homework.  Just as important, she shouldn’t be distracted by multiple media input while chatting on the phone with her grandparents.

These conclusions lead me back to an important reminder:  I can model for her by slowing down and being present with each moment.

What examples of information overload have you seen recently?

Mama J is a freelance writer based in Northern Colorado. She specializes in articles and essays about family relationships and dynamics.

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