Studies—and, certainly, parental experiences—show that digital natives can concentrate on more than one thing at a time. In my opinion, the huge percentage increase in the diagnosis of attention deficient disorder in American children in the past 20 years is largely due to a combination of two factors: First, they can concentrate on more than one thing at a time; and second, we don't think they can! Now, of course, there are children who truly do have ADD, just as there are adults that do. I just think that we, as parents, have overreacted a bit.
My aha! moment regarding this happened when my stepson Jordan was 13 and in the eighth grade. One evening at the dinner table, he said he had a lot of homework, so, wanting to be a good parent, I waited 45 minutes before I went into his room to make sure he was actually doing his homework. When I opened the door, I saw his TV on, his headphones half on his head and four instant messaging windows open on the computer on which he was doing his homework. I started to feel the parental anger rise up within me. I was about to say something strong, when it hit me: Jordan was a straight-A student! At that moment, I realized I was about ready to rag not because he was doing something wrong, but because there was no way I could do homework like that. When I was his age, I had to turn off the radio and shut the door to my room to be able to concentrate. To this day, I cannot write creatively with the TV on.
This seems to be a universal experience with parents of digital natives. When I speak to audiences, I ask for a show of hands of parents who have children under the age of 18. I tell that story about Jordan and his homework. When I get to the part about opening the door to Jordan's room, I ask those who raised their hands, "And what did I see?" They all answer things like "the TV was on," "music was playing," "texting." Guaranteed audience response, every time!