Our kids are surrounded by so much technology. Media. Each day I hear of some new social media form by which they connect to others. It’s impossible to keep up. How then can we guide our children to use digital technology beneficially but also avoid the inherent pitfalls?
We are raising kids in a culture like none before; one in which they can carry with them information about any topic, both good and bad, and the ability to connect to anyone, anywhere at any time. No other generation has had at their fingertips the amazing opportunities that today’s digital world grants, nor the menacing snare it easily turns into. Adults, teens and even toddlers are mesmerized by these tools which are intended to improve our lives yet can easily become their downfall.
You can find any number of articles about how technology can enhance a child’s development and an equal number of articles about how it harms the process. Same with social media. Everyday I come across new articles and recommended books discussing the impact of digital technology on our children. Parents must be wise. But how do we even begin?
We need to begin by keeping the end in mind. What is it that we want for our kids?
To that end, I am beginning a series of posts on this topic. Stay with me and chime in by sending me your comments, questions, and links to articles you find interesting on this topic. I would love to hear form you and learn together.
Today I want to bring up a new cognitive condition being reported on called digital dementia that is affecting some even in their early teens and twenties. This condition is defined as the deterioration of brain function as a result of the overuse of digital technology. The researchers go on to say that this excessive use of technology leads to unbalanced brain development. Heavy users are more likely to over-develop their left-brains, leaving the right brains underdeveloped.
So the answer to the question “does technology enhance or hinder our children’s learning” is a resounding YES and YES.
- Using digital technology helps develop the left side of the brain which is associated with rational thought, numerical computation and fact finding.
- Overuse results in underdeveloped right sides of the brain which impacts creativity, memory and emotions.
According to the research quoted in this article, if the right brain remains under developed in the long term, it can lead to the early onset of dementia. The most common symptoms of digital dementia include memory problems, shortened attention spans and emotional flattening. (difficulty feeling true emotion)
What will today’s young children, many of whom are being raised on a heavy digital diet, grow up to be like? What can we do to counteract the downside of their digital exposure so that they will not wind up with shortened attention spans, memory issues, and difficulty in feeling true emotions?
First and foremost, we need to point them daily to the Gospel message. They are loved and valued and they matter deeply to a Holy God. He alone can fill the void in their hearts- their yearning for connectedness, for meaning, for everlasting love.
Clearly we need to get serious about setting limits and guidelines for technology use.
Finally, we need to incorporate daily activities that develop the right side of their brains. God created us with both a left sight and a right side of the brain for a purpose. Read below for simple ideas:
Left-side + right-side = Whole brain
Most individuals have a distinct preference for either left or right brain styles of thinking. Those with a left brain preference lean towards logical, sequential, rational, analytical thought while whose with a right brain preference tend to be more intuitive and focus more on aesthetics, feeling, and creative outlets. The goal is to be whole-brained.
In general, schools tend to favor left-brain modes of thinking, while downplaying the right-brain ones. With longer school days, added technology and cuts to music and art programs, development of the left side of the brain is likely to occur in lopsided proportions.
What can parents do to encourage right-side growth?
- Allow for more time in nature
- Enroll them in art classes and provide for art activities at home
- Have them learn to play a musical instrument
- Teach them a creative hobby such as knitting, crocheting, quilting, or sewing
- Use metaphors, analogies, & role playing in your conversations with them
- Incorporate movement into their day whenever possible
- Provide them with puzzles, patterning activities and games that require memory