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on Leading the Next Generation


Five Ways You Can Help Kids Mature as They Multi-Task

unplugSince writing Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, I have continued to study this group of students, and have come to the conclusion that much of what we see in them can be described with a new phrase I think describes them so well:

Artificial Maturity

I believe this is the number one challenge in students today. This challenge stems from the fact that kids are consuming information far earlier than they are ready and gaining real life experience far later than they’re ready. They look mature at eight or nine years old—and want to enter adolescent behavior at that point—but they are far from  real maturity.

Part of this dilemma stems from multi-tasking.

This new generation multi-tasks more than any other population of children in modern history. Many parents and teachers wonder: Is this good for them or not? Does it increase their ability to take on more—or does it simply dilute their focus. Thanks to the incredible brain research done over the last decade, we know more about the teen brain that’s still developing during the teen years. 

“The effects this multitasking has on still-forming brains can be positive and negative. “The prefrontal cortex, which is essential for social behavior, planning, reasoning, and impulse control, is not fully developed until the early 20s,” says Jordan Grafman of the Kessler Foundation Research Center. “Its development is largely dependent on what activities you do.”

So—what can we do to help them mature authentically?

The key is balance

1.  Help them balance screen time with face-to-face time with people. For every hour they spend in front of a screen, have them spend an hour with people.

2.  Help them balance connected time with disconnected time—ask them to disconnect from phones and computers for two hours and focus on one important goal.

3.  Help them balance sedentary time with active time. For each hour spent sitting still (often in front of a screen), engage them in physical activity.

4.  Help them to balance trivial time with meaningful time. Especially for teens, they need to engage in meaningful work that contributes to a cause larger than themselves.

5.  Help them balance passive stimulation time with personal creative time. Provide project objectives that force them to create ideas that come from within, not from an external source.

I continue to believe students today may become the greatest generation in our history—but they will only if we, adults, guide them as they grow. 

Let me ask you: have you discovered any other ways that help balance student’s maturation process?  Can you post it here and encourage others?



  1. Dana Byers on October 18, 2011 at 7:59 am

    This is wonderful, Tim.  Thank you! 

    Our family is very connected online and has an active neighborhood and local church community, too.  Sometimes I find the best way to help my kids (ages 8 & 6) unplug is to limit their play time with neighbors after school so they can take time to enjoy the imagination, creativity, and restoration that happens by relaxing in the solace and comfort of their own bedrooms. 

    • Tim Elmore on October 23, 2011 at 9:00 pm

      Interesting point! I know we naturally think the opposite of unplugging is to spend time face-to-face with others but you bring up a great reminder. Sometimes the best thing we can do, both personally and for our kids, is create time to truly unplug from technology and others. Thanks for sharing!

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Five Ways You Can Help Kids Mature as They Multi-Task