Latest Research on Teen Brains & Online Use

According to an article in the UK Telegraph today,  prolonged exposure to the Internet among teenagers could be affecting their ability to concentrate.  The research done by academics at University College in London suggests that while kids are great at online multi-tasking, their  ability to focus while online is lacking.  Read the full article. Students brains ‘rewired’ by the internet.

Earlier British research (Our Rewired Brains Feb 2009) was ringing similar bells and I quote in part: 

 immersion in high technology has put us squarely in a state of continuous partial attention. It’s not the same as multitasking, which has purposes attached to each job, but a state in which our minds constantly search for any type of contact, to which we never fully pay attention. This state of heightened but split alertness and “perpetual connectivity.”

While some people might find these sorts of studies and warnings to be scaremongering, I thing one thing we have to take onboard is that teens of today are really the first generation that has/is growing up virtually cyber, and live their social  lives through a screen as a matter of course. Using  tools like MySpace,  Facebook and texting is as common and everyday as phoning a friend for a chat was for their parents while surfing around Google is  the chosen way to gather info for homework  rather than opening an actual book (I speak from the experience of bringing up my own teenager!) 

We don’t know what the long term outcomes are going to be.  If research points to the possibility of depression,  isolation, reduced social skills and online addition, then we should be prepared for these types of outcomes rather than just dismissing them as technophobic.  For older people of course and those who are isolated for whatever reason the reverse is often true – they are able to have a social network and feel part of a community, but there’s always  two sides to every coin.

Just on the topic of research on ‘where to from here’ regarding  how people use the Internet and what the future holds, Being Human: the Human-Computer Interaction in 2020 has just been released by Microsoft’s research arm.

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One Comment on “Latest Research on Teen Brains & Online Use”

  1. Mel says:

    I have to agree with your point about how we should be prepared for the outcomes of prolonged exposure to the ‘net rather than dismissing them as technophobic.
    In today’s society it is hard for a teenager to not be on Facebook or Twitter, or some other type of social networking site. There are definitely negative effects of this, and we should be prepared for them.


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