The New York Times has a huge article today on the damage technology is doing to our brains. Yes, there are many good things about technology (I’m blogging, aren’t I?), but the research is conclusive now that multitasking makes us dumber, not smarter, and that the addictive affect of being plugged in is quite real – and damaging to relationships.
Unfortunately, the piece is really long, so many people may not even read it – they’ll be too busy clicking over to another window or checking their Smart Phones (new motto: We make you dumber than you used to be). But here’s the cheat sheet if you can’t spare 15 minutes to read the whole story: Read the first page for the damage issue up close. Scroll halfway down this page to read a graf about multitasking and find a link to a quick game showing you’re not near as good at multitasking as you think you are. Read page three to drill down into the research, and pay close attention (if you can!) to this nugget:
Mr. Ophir is loath to call the cognitive changes bad or good, though the impact on analysis and creativity worries him.
He is not just worried about other people. Shortly after he came to Stanford, a professor thanked him for being the one student in class paying full attention and not using a computer or phone. But he recently began using an iPhone and noticed a change; he felt its pull, even when playing with his daughter.
“The media is changing me,” he said. “I hear this internal ping that says: check e-mail and voice mail.”
“I have to work to suppress it.”
And if you are a parent, give serious thought to if your children really need a cell phone. Parents are supposed to provide materials than enhance education and brain structure, not take from it. The developing brain needs to be trained to think deeply and creatively, not run like Pavlov’s dogs to the nearest stimulus – which is exactly what cell phones and text messaging train brains to do. From the Times piece:
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.
No child under driving age needs a cell phone. There is argument that cell phones are necessary for new drivers in case they get in a wreck and they are far from a pay phone. (There’s also the argument that cell phones in cars with teens increase accidents). But prior to 16, there’s no good argument – safety or otherwise – for giving a kid a cell phone. It is little more than convenience for parents, giving them the ability to track their children/check on them 24/7. How did parents do that before the advent of cell phones and other technology? Oh, yeah, they sat down at dinner and had actual conversations with their kids. We can do it again, people. Our brains may depend on it.