Early intervention may prove beneficial to beat it
Technology is a part of our society; there is no getting around it. Recent research suggests that excessive usage of the internet and the emerging world of social media over prolonged periods of time may negatively affect some cognitive functions, particularly attention and short-term memory. Not only this, its usage can also evoke a psycho-physiological state characterized by high positive valence and arousal.
With winter looming and the COVID-19 pandemic keeping us indoors, the increased dependency on technology has precipitated the effects of the digital dementia epidemic.
Digital dementia is a modern day newly coined term by a German neuroscientist, Manfred Spitzer in 2012, resulting in a sensory mismatch in the brain due to over utilisation of technology and surprisingly due to excessive slouched sitting posture. According to Spitzer, technology has allowed people to outsource mental activity by storing endless amounts of information such as phone numbers, passwords and schedules.
The youth, especially the adolescents, demonstrates a decline in their cognitive abilities. Further, the research shows that kids raised in this digital age are developing cognitive problems, attention issues and are also struggling with memory, organisation, reasoning, problem-solving and in-person social communication.
Digital dementia is an ignored epidemic of this century, which in turn is affecting our future generations. Today, we are all in the state of digital dementia where we are so distracted by meaningless discussions that we cannot even complete the basic daily tasks.
The only difference is dementia affects people with age, but digital dementia can affect even children with developing brains. Digital dementia develops when individuals spend an excessive amount of time on their electronic devices. With poor posture, a sensory dissociation occurs where the back of the brain is overactive, and the front of the brain is under active. These regions of the brain are responsible not only for higher order thinking and good behaviours such as motivation, goal setting, reading, writing, memory and socially appropriate behaviours but are also responsible for the movement and body position sense.
Digital dementia is a real thing. It is becoming a huge problem among people today. Today, many of us make a habit out of media multitasking, the consumption of multiple streams along with switchover of media simultaneously. A recent research suggests that engaging simultaneously with multiple forms of digital or screen-based media, be it watching television or texting or Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, may impair attention in young adults too, worsening their ability to later recall specific situations or experiences.
The overuse of electronics at a young age is a rising concern for doctors around the world. Social seclusion, lack of movement, anger, short term memory loss, developmental delays are some of the symptoms of digital dementia.
Even in classrooms, use of technology is unavoidable and is employed increasingly. But it’s never too early to teach the next generation how to use it wisely. Studies have shown that reading print materials boost reading comprehension. Using more print media such as magazines, comics, newspapers rather than tablets, smartphones or Kindle for reading gives the child a break from looking at screens.
The act of playing and exercising is also extremely important to keep the brain active and healthy. Using puzzles and games, such as chess, scrabble, jigsaw puzzles, playing outdoor sports instead of games that let the computer do the thinking promotes real-time problem-solving.
Try taking one day away from social media and see the difference in life. With great power comes great responsibility. Hence, one should be cognizant of accessing digital information at a measured rate.
(The author is a teacher at a reputed school in Delhi)