The exploitation of a new communicative environment has positive effects on the brains of our youth. Experts agree that today’s youth are able to ascertain between competing facts more accurately, make decisions more quickly, exhibit greater flexibility in employment, and heightened cognitive and analytical skills.
Unprecedented access to technology and the ability to absorb multiple sources of information and to sort it for future reference is part of what’s rewiring our brains and making them more elastic.
Conversely, other experts including industry leaders, scientists and scholars, believe the intrusion of technology on our lives may hinder contemplative thought, conversation, patience and a sense of play enjoyed by previous generations.
These people share concerns about changes in human attention and depth of discourse among those who spend most or all of their waking hours under the influence of hyperconnectivity.
Shorter attention spans and a need for instant gratification can make it harder to concentrate on and solve complex problems, particularly if there are few social incentives for deeper engagement. An “always-on” environment can harm genuine human interaction among friends and family.
Multitasking and spending just 140 characters or less on a topic is creating a distracted generation without direction or the ability to engage in deeper thinking, which raises concerns about the health and well-being of young adults who are simply unable to function without immediate access to online sources.
The New York Times recently reported that children who first learn to write by hand are better at generating ideas and retaining information. Writing by hand activates different parts of the brain compared to typing — even writing in cursive uses different parts of the brain compared to print. One educator cautioned that “broad use of technology is inarguably harmful to young children.”
Truth is, we see a mix of positive and negative effects as mobile connectivity transforms the lives of children. Technology fosters learning and cognitive development not yet developed in young children, however, some teens suffer from an unhealthy use of technology.
For better or for worse, there are some indisputable ways our brains have been rewired by tech. As Mashable reports, some of them include:
- Dreaming in color
- FOMO (fear of missing out). One study found that individuals who looked at pictures of friends’ meals on Instagram and Pinterest reported their own meals tasting bland by comparison.
- The “phantom vibration syndrome.”
- Inability to sleep
- Inattention and memory problems
- Increased visual skills
- Poor impulse control
- Greater creativity