Adolescent social development activities
Depending on the scope and topic of a keynote address I deliver, there is a point in the talk where I might tell the story about our three young goats, and why Denise and I are coaching them to publicly blog.
An article by Kathryn L. Mills entitled “Effects of Internet use on the adolescent brain: despite popular claims, experimental evidence remains scarce” to be published in the forthcoming edition of Science and Society suggests the fear is pure blatherskite. (malarkey, if you prefer)
Current evidence suggests that typical Internet activities do not impair social development during adolescence.
That sums it up nicely in fact.
The article cites fifteen different studies — from changes to the brain, cognition, sedentary concerns and relationship to musical-training — but more importantly she researched and analyzed 134 published studies on adolescent brains and moderate or typical Internet use. Her findings effectively debunks what is mostly prevalent in society today.
That is, parents, educators, and adults alike believe the internet is one big distraction and is affecting brain development.
Indeed, in their How Teens Do Research in the Digital World, where 2, 462 middle and high school teachers currently teaching in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands provided insights and opinions, Pew Research stated:
- 87% of teachers indicated the internet was creating an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans”
- 64% say today’s digital technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically”
Whether these teachers are followers of Oxford University neuroscientist Susan Greenfield remains unknown. Baroness Greenfield is one of the leading opponents to increased screen time for adolescents. She has coined the term, “Mind Change” — paying homage to a different calamity, climate change, perhaps — the internet isn’t exactly bringing the best out in us, adolescents included.
As Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology at Oxford University, Susan leads a team investigating the physical basis of the mind and its implications for our understanding of human behaviour, work and society. I’m sure she knows a thing or two, but Mills’ exhaustive research and provocative debunking is at the very least important to understand.
Mills — a at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London — concludes her piece with the following:
In the 25 years since the World Wide Web was invented, our way of interacting with each other and our collective history has changed. There is currently no evidence to suggest that Internet use has or has not had a profound effect on brain development.
People have openly questioned me after a keynote, asking why we’d ever let a kindergarten child write a blog and interact online.
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