Technology-Friend or Foe?

Ping! Buzz! Ding.! Those are the sounds associated with notifications that someone liked your post, sent you a text or just received an e-mail. These notifications are on our phones, watches and computers. The advantages technology provides in our day to day life are amazing. We can access information quickly, set reminders of things to do, contact people on the other side of the world in an instant and control the lights in our homes. How much easier our lives have become. Or have they? For some people, the constant pinging of cell phones notifying that there is a text or e-mail to respond to, a tweet to read or multiple websites to check for assignments is just overwhelming. People who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD or other learning disabilities may find the constant flow of information to be too much. Speed of processing, attention and information processing difficulties are common challenges for people in these groups. What does that mean for them?
It is a conundrum. The very technology that is designed to make lives easier by providing fast access to information overwhelms many of the clients with whom I work. Students need to access multiple google classroom pages each day to access assignments. They get emails to remind them of the assignments and text alerts from their teachers. These are in addition to the emails and texts they receive from their family and friends. Not to mention other notifications from social media like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Imagine having difficulty sustaining your attention and then having to manage these constant interruptions which you believe contain relevant information. Or at least pique your interest. Do you stop what you are doing and check the notification? Or do you keep working and attend to the notification when you complete the assignment? The ability to ignore the notification may seem like no big deal; however, if you have experienced a brain injury or ADD/ADHD, it is a VERY BIG DEAL. Even if those with those diagnosis’ try to ignore the notifications, they are likely to be internally distracted wondering about the notifications.
There is also the issue of “hyper focus” with ADD/ADHD and difficulty shifting attention associated with brain injury. A common occurrence for clients is to get caught up for hours scrolling through social media posts without realizing how much time has passed. YouTube is another site where they get “lost.” One video leads to another and another and another and before they know it, they may have spent hours focusing on anything and everything except their current assignment. How time flies.
What can be done to manage the technology issue and get the maximal benefit? Like the old saying goes, “Everything in moderation.” Identify the goal(s) being addressed. Is the technology meant to assist with a cognitive challenge such as increasing attention or compensating for a memory deficit, or is it meant to provide relaxation or connect to others socially? Some things to consider when using technology:
1. Introduce one new app/program/website at a time.
2. Provide sufficient time to learn the new app/program/website; monitor for Information Overload and frustration.
3. Track the effectiveness-is the goal being met?
4. Use timers to increase awareness of time spent on different devices/sites.
5. Communicate with teachers regarding the challenges noted with technology demands.

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