Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Article: 10 Big Ways That Technology Affects Your Brain

This post may seem boring because there are no pictures or flashy titles, but the information is important - so read on! 

I actually find it quite fascinating.  The world has totally been overtaken by computers, TVs, phones, video games, etc.  We all know this and I admit to being a victim.  I am rarely seen without my phone in my hand.  Not because I have free time to socialize or chat, but because I use it for EVERYTHING.  My calendar, my journal, my to do list, my scriptures, my bill paying, my shopping, etc.  I LOVE It and I think it has helped me be more organized and much more efficient.  However, that doesn't necessarily mean I should be attached to it :)   I never really understood what this technology was doing to our brains.  I had heard that it was addicting.  I had heard that it had led to more violence.  I had heard that it had been linked to ADD, etc., but I didn't really know why. 

When my kids were little, I remember hearing that I shouldn't let them watch TV at all under the age of 2.  I didn't really know why and didn't really look into it.  Plus, everyone else was doing it :)  My kids loved Baby Einstein and they watched plenty of it.   I remember hearing that they should have limited time after age 2.   I figured it was just because they were sitting and not learning anything.  So, rather than really look into the reasons behind this, I just made sure they were watching educational programs - that makes it okay right?  Well, not really.   Educational is good, but it is the amount of time spent watching the screen, regardless of content, that is really the issue.

Now, I am not at all saying that watching TV alone (or other screens) damages the brain or causes ADHD, Autism, etc.  In fact, there are still WAY too many theories of what causes all of these disorders and I am not going to get into them individually.  As a whole these are thought to be the major culprits:
(Most of these are taken from the Book "Disconnected Kids"
  • Lack of Physical Exercise
  • Overweight and Obesity
  • Television and Computer games
  • Stressful Pregnancies and births
  • Enviornmental Toxins including Vaccinations
  • Inadequate nutrition
Theses disorders could be caused by one or any combination of these things.  Some children are born with Autism or other neurological disorders, but more commonly children are regressing at a later age and actually losing skills, etc.  This signals a definite environmental factor.  To quote one paragraph of the book: 

"Each of these negative influences is interfering with the positive environmental stimulation the brain needs to grow and strengthen.  The most egregious is physical inactivity."

Now, my kids are hyper and crazy and bouncing on the furniture so I wouldn't say they lacked physical activity.  However, that doesn't mean it was the right kind of physical activity.  Again, it is not only ONE thing that causes these disorders, but many things can continue to make it worse or make it impossible to get better. 

The kids in Brain Balance (if Right Brain delayed*) are supposed to limit their "screen time" to 30 minutes a day.  That means ALL screens.  Computers, TV's, iTouchs, etc.  Why?  Because this screen time stimulates the left hemisphere of the brain.  If a child (or adult) is already out of balance, you don't want to continue to do things that will stimulate the brain that is already developing/working faster than the other.  We have cut out most all things that stimulate the left brain and are trying to implement everything that will stimulate the right brain. We need to get the right side to work harder and get stronger and we need to get the two hemispheres communicating with each other.

* Right Brain Delays are Usually Diagnosed as:
  • ADD
  • ADHD
  • Asperger's Syndrome
  • Autism
  • OCD
  • Tourettes Syndrome
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
  • Conduct Disorder (CD)
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Noverbal Learning Disability (NVLD)
Left Brain Delays are Usually Diagnosed as:
  • Dyslixia
  • Reading Disorder
  • Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Language Disorder
  • Processing Disorder
  • Learning Disability
  • Depression
For the children and adults that are neuro-typical, I think it is still all about balance.  If your child is constantly doing things that stimulate one side or the other, re-direct them to other things.  They don't need to do anything all day, no matter what it is.  Watch tv, play legos, play video games, read, etc.  It really isn't good to do the same thing all the time.  It doesn't work our brains.  If our brains aren't functioning properly, then our bodies don't either.  It is okay to have some TV time, but then we also need outside time, puzzle time, play time with friends, craft time, travel time, reading time, exercise time, etc. 

I know it is WAY easier to just turn on a movie.  I have done it for years.  My kids didn't watch TV all day, but they watched way too much.  Why?  Because they usually preferred that and it calmed them down so I could get things done or have less chaos.  The truth is,  it is a lot harder without a TV because you have to keep your children constantly engaged all the time or they go nuts!  This is easier with neuro-typical kids because they know how to play appropriately, use their imagination, read a book, etc.  When you have a child with Autism or on the spectrum somewhere, it is not that easy.  The reason I allowed Wyatt to play games on his iPhone so often was because he didn't have other things to do.  If I was trying to make dinner, get work done, etc., he was climbing the cabinets, destroying things, escaping the house, flooding the sinks, etc.  If I gave him a movie or an iPhone to play, he stayed out of trouble.  However, that was just continuing to exacerbate the problem. 

I am not here telling all of you to throw away your televisions and toss your computers out the window.  I am only here to tell you what I have learned and pass it on to you.  There are so many things I didn't look into or took at face value and I don't make that mistake anymore. 

Lesson I have learned about EVERYTHING in life.  Don't assume something is okay or good because someone else does it.  Don't assume everything is safe just because other people say it is.  Don't assume that the government or others are looking out for you and your family's best interests.  You are responsible for reading, researching, praying and making the decisions of what is right for YOUR family and no one else.  

Okay - Finally!  Here is the article.  It was given to me by Brain Balance but it is all over the internet.  Look it up if you like.  Read it and pass it on!

The Internet and digital technology has wholly revolutionized the way we do business, conduct research, find entertainment and even socialize. It’s a godsend for college students, and arguably an invaluable tool for everyone from freelancers to CEOs to stay-at-home parents. But with all of the information and media that we’re exposed to everyday, our minds are actually changing. There’s a scientific and neurological shift in the way we process information, read, communicate and interact with each other, and some of it is quite frightening. Here are 10 big ways that technology affects your brain.
  1. It’s physically changing our brains: Brains are malleable, and through our power of imagination, virtual simulation and technology experiences, we’re actually changing the physical shapes of our brains, strengthening parts of the mind that can lead to a decrease in sense of self and human identity.
  2. Developing brains are especially at risk: Today, people "consume" about 12 hours of media — including TV and Internet — per day while at home, while in 1960, people consumed only 5 hours per day. Children are especially at risk because their minds are not developed enough to process so much digital stimulation or information, especially when it comes to prioritizing and practicing self control.
  3. It can be addictive: For lots of reasons, being plugged in can become a serious addiction which interferes with daily activities, child rearing, social events, normal conversation, and even business and work.
  4. We’re less able to think abstractly, but can tune out external distractions: Perhaps because of the immediacy of information, over-stimulation, and multitasking applications and technologies, our ability to think abstractly has been greatly affected. On the other hand, we’re better able to tune out external distractions like music or TV while processing information online or via a smart phone.
  5. Our neural pathways are affected: The change in attention span isn’t just "habitual," as this Guardian article points out, but neurological. Our neural pathways are actually being damaged, and we’re less able to really process and remember information, even though we’re constantly reading, or skimming, online.
  6. It affects our ability to read: Reading books or even longer articles from a medium like a newspaper has become more and more difficult for lots of frequent web users, as we’ve become accustomed to taking in information superficially without taking the time to really appreciate things like fully constructed arguments, narrative or even complex plot. This challenge may be a result of lowered attention span, but others believe that the way we think has actually changed, and our minds have "taken on a staccato quality," possibly because reading isn’t a human instinct. Just as we learned how to read, we’re un-learning it after years online.
  7. Fragmented communication leads to jitters and addictive personalities: This writer shared her experience "dreaming in Twitter": after too much Twittering, her brain couldn’t relax, and she and her friends attuned the experience to having ADD-like symptoms. Their concentration is limited to 140-character quips, and addictive personality traits surfaced almost immediately after she got the hang of sharing peak experiences and participating in global conversations.
  8. Our brains function more primitively: With such "deluge[s]" of information popping up at a constant rate, we’re more prone to panic and irrational reactions to e-mails, blog posts and other things online. We get too excited too easily, feel bored and empty when we’re not plugged in, and feel impulsive and compelled to respond to every piece of data coming in.
  9. We’re losing our sense of place, and the ability to contextualize: Scientists and researchers have pinpointed a problem with GPS and other direction services like Google Maps: we’re given directions to follow, but no context to put it all in. This lack of understanding and personal customization or familiarity makes us more likely to forget something or miss out on a piece of information altogether. Social networking is being used to help solve the problem, but if we rely on technology as a one-sided provider, we lose our ability to contextualize.
  10. We process visual information more quickly: Those who spend more time reading webpages and playing video or computer games are able to process visual information and translate visual symbols at a much faster rate than those who don’t.
Goodnight everyone!  I must turn off my computer now ;)


    1. This is why you must start camping with me, weeks in the mountains, kids imaginations running wild and no disturbances with TV or computer. I have been telling you it is a great way to spend a summer, next summer I expect you join in the fun with me! Miss you!

    2. Really great information, we are all surrounded by technologies & yet we don't know the harmful effects of it. Thanks for sharing this, it is really helpful.
      Brain Balance Program