There is growing evidence, however, that technology rewires brains, and not always in good ways. What is all that computer time doing to the way your children think, learn and behave? I take a closer look in Screen Time and Children (Are Computers Dumbing Us Down?).
How Technology Rewires Children’s Brains
The overuse of technology has started to show damaging effects on children’s overall health and emotional well-being.
- Lack of exercise is linked to a high rate of childhood obesity.
- Lack of exposure to sunlight interrupts sleep rhythms and results in low levels of Vitamin D.
- Blue screen lighting disrupts melanoma, which regulates sleep and well-being.
- Many children have an impaired ability to have meaningful social interactions.
- Many children report lowered self-esteem and higher rates of depression.
Experts Are Raising the Alarm
Experts in technology and human development have started expressing concern about the amount of time children spend on their digital screens.
In an article at Hacker Noon, Muffie Waterman describes the different changes our brains go through when we absorb new information and new events.
Although the article is pretty technical, it’s clear that Waterman, a tech expert, is concerned about the potential bad effects of technology on children’s developing brains. She likens the addiction to technology to addictions to drugs and alcohol.
To those who think that comparison is extreme, Waterman says it’s something we need to explore seriously:
“We’re engaged in the largest social experiment of human history as we put powerful, poorly understood technology into the hands of our children. In the space of 10 short years we have gone from the invention of the smartphone to near-saturation of internet-enabled mobile devices.”
Waterman says the time to raise the alarm is “yesterday.”
Who’s Rewiring Your Kid’s Brain?
A landmark 2018 study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that the concerns of people like Waterman are real.
One key takeaway from the study is that children’s brains are showing definite physical changes at an early age. It’s becoming clear that technology rewires brains:
“In extreme cases, researchers also said that some brain scans of 9- and 10-year-olds who spend more than seven hours a day using electronic devices show a thinning of the brain’s cortex, which usually happens later in development. It’s worth noting these are early results that have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, so they shouldn’t be viewed as definitive. As the NIH’s Dr. Gaya Dowling told 60 Minutes, ‘We don’t know if it’s being caused by the screen time. We don’t know yet if it’s a bad thing.'”
What Do the Tech Moguls Know That We Don’t?
What’s really interesting is that the people who know technology best are also those most likely to shield their children from the harmful effects of that same technology.
A 2017 article in Business Insider found that tech moguls like Bill Gates and tech executives in Silicon Valley all share one trait. They don’t allow their children to use computers in school or electronic devices at home.
They Know the Dangers
According to researcher Sherry Turkle, who has written extensively about the effects of technology on society, that’s because these technology experts know the danger best:’
“‘Here I am at MIT, surrounded by super techies, and same story here,” said Turkle, who’s based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts. ‘Everybody’s at a Montessori school and has rules about no computers at the dinner table, no computers at breakfast, no computers here, no computers there, no computers in the classroom. I mean, same story.'”
Many of these executives and tech employees send their children to Montessori schools or Waldorf schools. These schools prohibit the use of laptops, cell phones and tablets in school.
Limiting Home Use
They also curtail their children’s use of technology at home.
A follow-up article in 2018 profiled the family lives of executives at Silicon Valley companies. The article noted that their avoidance of this technology should raise red flags for the rest of us.
Writing about the Koduri family, for instance, the magazine pointed out that:
“There are no video game systems inside the Koduri household, and neither child has their own cell phone yet. Saurav and Roshni can play games on their parents’ phones, but only for 10 minutes per week. There are no limits to using the family’s vast library of board games. A while back, the family bought an iPad 2, but for the last five years it’s lived on the highest shelf in a linen closet.”
Ready to Escape Your Classroom?
The article also described schools in Silicon Valley that cater to this low-tech approach.
“At the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, a private school in Los Altos, California, kids use chalkboards and number 2 pencils. Faculty don’t introduce kids to screen-based devices until they reach the eighth grade.
“At Brightworks School, a K-12 private school in San Francisco, kids learn creativity by using power tools, dismantling radios, and attending classes in treehouses.”
If you think about who’s rewiring your kid’s brain, it’s clearly the tech companies who want to create addicted consumers. At this point, the obvious question is, “What do these tech executives know about their own products that you don’t?”
How to Reduce the Effects On Your Children
If you’re concerned about how technology rewires children’s brains, you can start taking steps at home to protect your children. Some family health experts recommend the following steps to keep your whole family more mentally healthy:
- Put a time limit on their use of video games. Some experts recommend 30 minutes or less each day.
- Forbid the use of electronic devices at the dinner table or on family outings.
- Encourage your children to engage in outdoor activities and hobbies that don’t require technology.
- Remove televisions from children’s rooms.
- Turn off all children’s cell phones and devices in the evening.
You Can Fight the Effects of Too Much Technology
You’re likely to meet with strong resistance from your children when you establish these rules. Remind yourself that you’re protecting your kids from a potentially dangerous substance. You’ll also be increasing your children’s social and emotional health.
Is the overuse of technology a problem you’ve got experience with?
If you’re a classroom teacher, it’s possible you have concerns about technology use in your classroom from both school-owned devices and student-owned.
Maybe you’ve decided that with the additional load of all the technology issues, now is the time to start planning your exit from the classroom. If so, you’re not alone.
According to the research, several hundred thousand teachers leave the field annually. Many of them have started their own businesses.
If you’re looking to supplement your income, or completely replace it, take a look at my #1 recommendation for escaping the classroom. It’s a great resource for learning how to promote yourself, your aspirations, and your special concerns.
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Ready to Escape Your Classroom?
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