Is technology killing our ability to communicate?

Kids Who Grow Up Using iPads Have Restricted Vocabularies. Business Insider, July 23, 2013.

A curious article related to research at the Department of Psychiatry at King’s College London. The study done there raises concern that children who grow up relating more to iPads and media devices rather than to real people will reach adulthood with a less full and developed vocabulary than those who relate less to machines and more to humans.

Though the study itself does not work its way through all the steps to show that this concern is anything more than provisional, the article and the study should give us reason to pause.

What we know about the brain is that it is fairly plastic but that certain connections between one cluster of nerve cells and another become solidified at a relatively early age. This includes connections between sounds and words. And this explains why it is easier to learn a second language if we start the learning younger in life versus later. As the saying of neuroscientists goes, neurons that fire together wire together.

So the concern is that kids who grow up with media machines in their hands rather than humans in the purview run the risk of not connecting sounds to words and so develop a more limited vocabulary and so learn to express themselves more poorly. This is a serious concern.