Technology has certainly changed the way we go about our day to day activities. This is true of adults and children alike. And while technology has certainly done its part in helping to enhance how we go through our daily tasks, there is also a negative aspect that is not always readily discussed.
A plethora of recent studies show that the tech devices we use each day reshape our brains — and not always for the better. Particularly in children and teens, the negative effects of technology become apparent when we look at brain development. Before letting your child have too much screen time, consider the consequences of this decision.
Negative Effects Of Technology On Brain Development
While it is important to not demonize the explosion of technological advancement in our society over the past thirty years, we may still need to be wary of it. When smartphones, computers, video games and the internet entered our lives, we accepted them without considering the potential consequences of our actions.
Now, in an age where younger generations have grown up with the constant stimulation and distraction of flashing screens, we see a significant amount of studies finding a negative correlation between technology and brain development.
While we are all susceptible to the enticements of technology, the developing brains of children and teens seem most affected. Social media platforms, text messages, and video games may connect us in ways we never thought possible, but they are also ironically making significantly less social creatures.
It is true that technology evolves alongside human culture, not separate from it. We use our smartphones because we live in a society that places value on connectivity and convenience. As such, we should not vilify the technology itself, but we should be critical of the ways use it — especially if it has a negative impact on future generations’ brain development. In this article, we will look at some potential concerns to keep in mind when using technology.
1) Harmful for Developing Attention Spans
This negative effect is perhaps the most prevalent in children and teens with technology addictions. Attention is vital for learning, and it is inextricably tied to memory. For centuries the process of memory involved sitting down, usually with a book, and studying the information without breaking concentration. When you do this, you solidified the material in your mind. The internet took away this need. Why take the time to learn something when you can find it on the web?
In exchange for meaningful interaction and play, televisions and smartphones provide an easily digestible stream of information. Unfortunately, for this stream, we sacrifice our creative thinking, problem-solving and memory skills. It is no wonder that, when compared side-by-side, people reading a printed article in-person and the same item on the internet remember material from the written article better. Without all the distractions from ads, hyperlinks, and social media temptation, the article is much easier to read.
However, we should not be too quick to denounce our shrinking attention spans. When the invention of writing came around, scholars — who previously committed knowledge to memory — decried the technology as the death of traditional learning. In a way, they were right. Reading replaced memory as the preferred method of education. Perhaps another shift is happening in which the ability to find the information replaces reading (and knowing). Regardless, we still need to learn how to utilize it in a way that does not damage our brains.
When kids are constantly bombarded by technology, their brain does not get a chance to get a break. When this happens, children are less likely to experience boredom. There are plenty of studies that address this issue of bordem being essential to a child’s development. When children are bored, they get a chance to think creatively and outside of the box. This is important to be able to develop this skill this what makes an individual more apt to ao solve creative problems.
2) Addiction Connected to the Instant Gratification of Technology
Another way technology can influence the development of the brain is through a coping method. When we are overwhelmed by the stressors and expectations of everyday life, we often turn to something that gives us pleasure. It can be drugs and alcohol, or food and pornography. But just as people overeat or over exercise to delay negative feelings, people use social media, video games, and television to do the same. And the result can be very unhealthy.
When we get notifications on our phones, or achievements in video games, our neural system delivers a hefty supply of dopamine, which gives us those happy feelings we love. Unfortunately, when we receive this gratification over and over again, it reinforces the activity as a viable way to escape depression and sadness. If we use technology to cope with the realities of life, it creates an addiction in which we think we need whatever it is we are craving to function at the moment. Soon, the thing we think we love becomes something to hate
3) Poor Social Abilities In Person
While the tech nerd cliche is a bit overused (some people are just quieter than others), there is evidence that technology like testing is hurting our social skills. Unfortunately, screen-to-screen communications do not account for all the intricacies involved in interpersonal relationships. When we talk to people in person, we use things like tone of voice, inflection, and body language to signify emotion, sarcasm, and feeling. These qualities simply cannot be learned through text-based communication.
The result is frequent cases of miscommunication for adults. For kids, these problems can manifest in there after school activity. Instead of playing outside with other children, they may run to the nearest computer and television. Try to schedule more playdates and outside time for your children if you notice socialization becoming an issue.
The irony is that as the use of social media continues to rise, the individuals on these apps are becoming less and less social. This is especially important for younger children and teenagers as the result can have lasting effects on the way a child’s social skills develop.
4) Higher Cases of Depression in Tech-Savvy Kids
In a recent study by the International Journal of Child Health and Human Development found that around 30% of tech-savvy children and teens experience depression. While researchers linked this to sedentary activity and little socialization, it is not hard to extrapolate other causes for this startling number.
The incessant need for likes and affirmation on social media can create a dangerous type of social dependency. When teens associate things that get a lot of likes with value, their sense of self-worth can quickly deteriorate. If a photo or video does not get enough attention or engagement, teens may feel like they are not good enough. Personality does not matter; appearances are everything.
5) Risky Sexual Development Through Sexting and Pornography
Though there is nothing inherently wrong with cybersex, teens who use it to replace meaningful, intimate relationships can quickly become entangled in a messy association with sex. When children expose themselves to pornography at a young age, it gives them a very different expectation of what sex will be like in person. Porn often plays into stereotypes that negatively depicts women and fetishes people of color. Pornography addiction is also another concern — a condition that affects millions of men and women.
Cybersex between teens can also have catastrophic effects on social lives and safety. Online predators disguised as fellow teens can stalk social media sites and chat rooms. If you never taught internet safety to your child, these disguises could be hard to detect. In the worse case scenarios, teens can end up kidnapped by their predator, or worse.
When teens engage in sexting by sending compromising photos to each other, there is a potential chance that individuals will share these photos, either with their friends or on the internet. If these photos get out, they can have devastating effects on a developing teens identity and mental health. In many unfortunate cases, teens commit suicide because their naked pictures leaked on the internet.
6) Sleep Deprivation Associated with Technology
Sleep is one of the essential functions for developing children and teens. It allows our bodies to grow and recuperate from the stressors of the day. Unfortunately, technology in recent years is permanently damaging our sleeping patterns. Smartphones are usually the last thing people see at night and the first thing they reach for in the morning. Over 68% of people keep their phones by their bed on the nightstand.
For one thing, this overstimulation before bedtime makes it harder to fall asleep. Whether you are thinking about a post, you just saw or mauling over an exciting video, technology like television, smartphones and video games keep us up longer. It also affects the quality of our sleep. Avid tech users wake up in the night more often than non-tech users. This interruption of our REM sleep cycles can influence our mood, attention span, and coordination.
7) Increased Narcissism and General Lack of Empathy
With the advent of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, users are able (for the most part) to control the presentation of their image. This self-presentation is far more damaging than we may realize. It creates a demand to prevent the perfect version of yourself at all times. When you are always worried about how others perceive you, you quickly become only worried about yourself. This level of narcissism can lead to the objectification of individual and general decrease in empathy.
We hope this article gives you some food for thought when considering the negative effects of technology on brain development. The issue is not cut and dry. Technology is, for better or worse, permanently tied to western society, and its influence is only predicted to spread. However, we can control the way we use technology. Try teaching your children mindfulness when using their various devices — along with frequent screen breaks. Being able to recognize when you are dependent on something is the first step toward recovery.