Kids’ brains are being changed by media immersion

How the Web Became Our ‘External Brain,’ and What It Means for Our Kids. Wired, August 6, 2014.

A thought-provoking article, which is an excerpt of a book by Michael Harris, entitled The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection. The article leaves the reader sobered, thoughtful. Relying much on recent brain research, the article argues that the human brain of the child is literally being changed by its daily immersion in the Internet and media.

An old adage among brain researchers is that neurons and fire together wire together. What is means is that, if neuronal cells being to fire electrically in a fashion that elicits a certain pattern of response, then the cells knit together and begin to fire in concert more often and continuously.

Another well-known discovery of brain researchers is that, as the human brain develops in the first few months and years of life, certain neuronal connections strength while others atrophy.

If one takes these two ideas and considers how the young brain of so many humans, from age one onward, now takes much of its input from screens rather than human interactions, we can see how the brain that are now developing among humans can be quite different in its actual micro-anatomy by age 5 or so, versus brains of humans born, say, fifty years ago.

How would these differences manifest themselves? Harris contends that a major difference would be in the area of shallowness of thought versus deeper thinking. With instant gratification be a sine qua non among those reared in front of screens, we may end up with a world flooded with individuals who cannot tolerate complexity and profundity, as they’ve been reared on sound bites and simplistic explanations rather than deeper, richer modes of thought. They may not be able to tolerate the reading of long and expansive modes of thought and want instant answers, glib explanations.