Wednesday, 26 June 2013

‘Digital Dementia’...No Thanks

Since the day Mrs Wiselmo and my daughters purchased various models of the iphone 4, I’ve been feeling a little out of things. Although my mobile is one step up from a brick, I’m really happy with it because I rarely use it, and when I do it’s for phone calls only. None of this ‘net surfing’, ‘Facebooking’, ‘Twittering’, ‘apps’, texting and social networking for me.

I am however intrigued by the use of this type of technology as I see ever increasing numbers of people, usually younger, spending hours of their daily lives talking, texting or using the internet via their phone. The proliferation of phone use has even added a new word to the English language.......’nomophobia’.....fear of being out of mobile phone contact.

In February 2012, the Telegraph reported on a study of 1,000 people in employment which focussed on mobile phone use. Commissioned by SecurEnvoy, the data reveals some really interesting facts and trends about the nation’s growing attachment to phones:

·         two thirds of those surveyed fear losing their mobile phone

·         70 per cent of the women surveyed worry about losing their phone 

·         61 per cent of the men surveyed worry about losing their phone

·         47 per cent of men have two phones 

·         36 per cent of women have two phones

·         Young adults aged 18-24 are the most ‘nomophobic’

·         The least ‘nomophobic’ is the over own age group.

While I find the whole idea of ‘nomophobia’ no more than mildly amusing, recent research flagging up the possibility of ‘digital dementia’ needs to be taken very seriously.

Julian Ryall, writing recently in the Telegraph has pointed to recent research in South Korea, one of the most digitally connected nations on earth. According to Ryall ‘digital dementia’ is, ‘a deterioration in cognitive abilities that is more commonly seen in people who have suffered a head injury or psychiatric illness.’

Researchers have identified a link between the over use of computer games and other platforms and devices to the development of ‘digital dementia. The Balance Brain Centre in Seoul maintains that: ‘over-use of smartphones and game devices hampers the balanced development of the brain.............heavy users are likely to develop the left side of their brains, leaving the right side untapped or underdeveloped. The right side of the brain is linked with concentration, and its failure to develop will affect attention and memory span, which could in as many as 15 per cent of cases lead to the early onset of dementia. Sufferers are reported to be emotionally underdeveloped, with children more at risk than adults because their brains are still growing.’

According to Julian Ryall, ‘the situation appears to be worsening, doctors report, with the percentage of people aged between 10 and 19 who use their smartphones for more than seven hours every day leaping to 18.4 per cent, an increase of seven per cent from last year.’

Last year German neuroscientist Dr Manfred Spitzer’s book, "Digital Dementia" warned parents and teachers of the dangers of children spending too much time on their laptop, mobile phone or other electronic devices.

As a Christian and an educator, I am crucially aware of what is required to promote healthy brain and spiritual development in the young. Dr Spitzer has sounded a timely warning.

We should pray that parents and teachers will have the wisdom and strength to enable children to make proper and healthy use of their computers and phones.

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