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    How is technology affecting children’s concentration, empathy, impulse control?

    A new article from The New York Times provides insight into how technology affects the brains and lifestyles of children and adults. Impulse control, concentration, empathy, immersion in an activity, true social skills–many of these important traits are being lost in the din of email alerts, Facebook updates, compulsive email checking, and so-called multitasking, which researchers are saying is not so effective after all. Technology is important and without a doubt it is beneficial to have so much information at our fingertips. But, are we letting it go too far?

    Here’s an excerpt from the article:

    This is your brain on computers.

    Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.

    These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored

    While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise. Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, scientists say, and they experience more stress.

    And scientists are discovering that even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist. In other words, this is also your brain off computers.

    …In 2008, people consumed three times as much information each day as they did in 1960. And they are constantly shifting their attention. Computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour, new research shows….

    …Researchers worry that constant digital stimulation like this creates attention problems for children with brains that are still developing, who already struggle to set priorities and resist impulses.

    Connor’s troubles started late last year. He could not focus on homework. No wonder, perhaps. On his bedroom desk sit two monitors, one with his music collection, one with Facebook and Reddit, a social site with news links that he and his father love. His iPhone availed him to relentless texting with his girlfriend.

    When he studied, “a little voice would be saying, ‘Look up’ at the computer, and I’d look up,” Connor said. “Normally, I’d say I want to only read for a few minutes, but I’d search every corner of Reddit and then check Facebook.”

    Mr. Nass at Stanford thinks the ultimate risk of heavy technology use is that it diminishes empathy by limiting how much people engage with one another, even in the same room.

    “The way we become more human is by paying attention to each other,” he said. “It shows how much you care.”


    Comment from Eugene
    Time June 14, 2010 at 8:59 am

    I think this is just another case of disruptive technology and the process of adapting to it. As with TV, video games, and other entertainment, the amount of time kids spend on Facebook, messaging, emailing, and chatting need to be limited by the parents.

    Comment from admin
    Time June 14, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I agree that parents placing limits on disruptive technology use is important; however, it’s also rather frightening how without external controls many individuals (adults and children) struggle to turn off the devices and engage in more natural activities.

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