In class this week we had a discussion about the differences in how each generation uses and understands technology. I made a point about younger people being raised around technology and the effect that could have had on brain development or why we understand technology more. I thought this was an interesting idea and I wanted to know more, so I decided to do some research. I found many articles on the negative impacts that technology has on developing children. Most of these articles look fairly similar to this article from Huffington Post. The author explains, “diagnoses of ADHD, autism, coordination disorder, developmental delays, unintelligible speech, learning difficulties, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders are associated with technology overuse, and are increasing at an alarming rate.”
While I understand that technology overuse can have troubling consequences on developing minds and bodies, I felt there had to be an article somewhere that pointed to the benefits of technology. Then I came across this article about research being conducted at UCLA’s Memory and Aging Research Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. The article refers to a “brain gap” between young “digital natives” and older “digital immigrants”. Dr. Gary Small, director of the Memory and Aging Research Center, explains that “’digital natives’ — young people born into a world of laptops and cell phones, text messaging and twittering — spend an average of 8 1/2 hours each day exposed to digital technology. This exposure is rewiring their brain’s neural circuitry, heightening skills like multi-tasking, complex reasoning and decision-making.” As a consequence, however, the overuse of technology takes away from time that could be spent developing people skills. Digital immigrants, on the other hand, were born into a world without the Internet and must work harder to navigate technology “without the already-developed brain form and function”. Luckily, the brain is an amazing phenomena that is still trainable at any age. Dr. Small pointed to a recent study that examined the effects of Internet searching on brain activity in subjects between the ages of 55 and 76, with only half of them being experienced in Internet searching. Using MRI technology to scan the subjects’ brains while googling, “researchers found that the brains of the Web-savvy group reflected about twice as much activity compared to the brains of those who were not Web-savvy”. Dr. Small believes that technology could be extremely useful in helping aging brains stay sharp and maintain vital functions. As technology continues to weave into all facets of daily life, research like this could be extremely useful in helping us to understand and harness the benefits of technology.