NYTimes article on why reddit (and modern tech lifestyle) is ruining a 16 year old's grades

Researchers worry that constant digital stimulation like this creates attention problems for children with brains that are still developing, who already struggle to set priorities and resist impulses.

Connor’s troubles started late last year. He could not focus on homework. No wonder, perhaps. On his bedroom desk sit two monitors, one with his music collection, one with Facebook and Reddit, a social site with news links that he and his father love. His iPhone availed him to relentless texting with his girlfriend.

When he studied, “a little voice would be saying, ‘Look up’ at the computer, and I’d look up,” Connor said. “Normally, I’d say I want to only read for a few minutes, but I’d search every corner of Reddit and then check Facebook.”

OK, that headline isn't the thesis of the article, but there are quite a few reddit mentions in here. While I'm thrilled to have Connor and his dad as avid redditors, finding the right balance in life is key -- Steve & I needed to be able to pull ourselves away from WoW if we wanted any chance of creating reddit in the first place. Connor sounds like the kind of kid who could grow up to create a tech startup of his own, I'd hate for sites like reddit & facebook to get in the way of that.

We designed reddit to be addictive, which isn't really fair because -- unless it's changed since I was in high school -- homework is generally rather torturous. Most kids have trouble focusing on homework, which may or may not have been related to his recent slump in grades (I made the mistake of taking Calc 1/2 way too early, which doomed me for a semester).

But as much as I'm supposed to encourage the addiction, I'd rather see redditors, especially young ones, developing the discipline that'll make them great friends/parents/startup founders in the future. We love technology, but we're also supposed to be its master (for now at least, until it becomes self-aware).

I've been using RescueTime (a fellow YCombinator company) since they launched and find their "Get Focused" feature (which blocks distracting websites for a user-selected period of time) quite effective. I'm sure we could get their family a pro account...

If any of you know Connor or his family, please pass along this note from me, a reddit co-founder. I'll send him a reddit shirt, too, as long as he promises to wear it outside to go exploring one day.

3 responses
We'd definitely hook them up with a free RescueTime Pro account. Just let me know where to send it.
That's the spirit! Thanks, Brian. It just dawned on me to email the NYTjournalist about passing along this note, too. I'll ping ya if/when I hear back.
OH, uh... how silly of me. We worked with them on this article (I should've actually looked at the article link you posted, tee hee). We should be able to get in touch with them too.