Wow, Sherry Turkle's article is a bulls-eye. Though her primary target isn't really the Verizon Guy with the thick glasses, the metaphor of the Verizon commercial (Can you hear me now) as representing our attempts to connect using technology---and yet really connecting less---summarizes the underlying argument of her article. Most of us recognize the benefits of technology more readily than the possible costs; specifically in how human interaction and personal reflection, in their natural forms, are relegated to obsolescence.
1. What can be done to ensure children are not ensconced in a virtual world where human interaction without the benefit of technology is totally absent?
Turkle points to the problem of children becoming so dependent ("tethered") on electronic connectedness that at times their independence is stymied. Anyone who has recently visited a Jamba Juice or other such place that teenagers frequent can't help but notice that every teenager in the shop has a cell phone in hand, and that every 30 seconds or so they anxiously glance at their phone to see if they have been texted. It is, as Turtle suggested, as if being connected electronically demonstrates identity, worth and certainly status.
As adults, parents or future teachers, we need to think of ways to ensure children learn to connect at least as well with their actual voices and body language, and can reflect on a deeper level. Most important is to model moderation. If we are unable to ignore a phone, a beep, or a chime during a face-to-face conversation, how can we expect children not to develop the "always on" attitude? Additionally, perhaps it would be a helpful idea for families to designate one "off" day a week, where all of the electronics get turned off, and everyone is forced to communicate the old-fashioned way.
2. The idea of multi-tasking as a mindset has grown in the last few decades. Is this a good thing?
I think it is misplaced. I believe this has more to do with the elevation of the business world in popular culture than with technology. Some CEOs are treated like rock-stars and their language has also been given a boost. "Multi-tasker", a buzz word for human resources departments everywhere, is almost obligatory on all resumes. But while computer might multi-task well, I don't believe most people do. This ties into Turkle's point about the increasing inability of people to reflect deeply. The pressure to multi-task means juggling superficial thoughts which inhibits thinking on a deeper, more singular level.