Parents and children alike are spending more time with technology than ever before. On average, adults spend eight hours and forty minutes using digital technology, daily. This means that each day, adults spend twenty minutes more with digital technology than they spend sleeping. It’s troubling to discover that more time is given to handheld devices and computers than the restorative function of sleep. Even more concerning is the fact that 81 percent of smartphone users admit to having their phones on at all times, including the minimal hours that they spend in bed. Children have also fallen victim to the draw of technology, spending upwards of seven and a half hours with digital technology every single day.
Considering the incredible amounts of time spent on smartphones, tablets, television, and computer screens, it’s crucial to understand the possible health implications associated with digital technology. Since the human brain was not designed to deal with such vast amounts of digitization, overuse can cause significant cognitive deterioration. Short-term memory problems and decreased attention span are just a few symptoms associated with a condition neuroscientists have called digital dementia.
Digital dementia is the deterioration of cognitive abilities due to overuse of technology. The type of cognitive breakdown found in the brains of individuals who overuse technology can also be found in individuals who have suffered severe head trauma or psychiatric diagnosis. This corrosion of cognitive function is attributed to the neglect of human brain development and over-reliance on technology.
As technology users increasingly rely more on their phones and less on their brains, the entire development of the brain becomes unbalanced. While technology use can help promote the development of the left side of the brain in the form of linear and rational thinking, the right side of the brain is severely compromised. The emotional, perceptive, and resourceful right side of the brain becomes underdeveloped, leading to problems with short-term memory, attention span, and the ability to concentrate and regulate emotions.
The problem stems from the sheer convenience of technology. Most people literally have a smartphone within their reach at all times. This means that when questions arise about a phone number, address, or name, a phone is consulted rather than a brain. Although the brain is an organ, it behaves like a muscle in that proper training can improve its function. Similarly, failing to exercise and strengthen the brain can lead to its weakening. Fortunately, the following steps can be taken to exercise the brain and help prevent and treat symptoms associated with digital dementia:
- Brain Exercise: The most important thing that can be done to prevent digital dementia is to exercise the brain. Playing simple memory games can work to rebalance the left and right sides of the brain.
- Physical Exercise: For the most part, individuals who overuse technology also spend a lot of time sitting down. Any type of exercise that increases the heart rate will also increase blood flow to the brain, promoting the transport of vital nutrients and improving brain function. You can still use your FitBit!
- Reading: Reading a physical book, rather than words on a screen is a great way to exercise the brain. Reading has been shown to improve both memory retention and attention span.
- Learning a Language: Attempting to learn a new language is an incredibly challenging cognitive exercise. It requires immense concentration and cognitive function, both of which are beneficial to the brain. Go ahead, use an app to teach yourself to speak French, but also get out there and apply that knowledge through true conversation.
- Playing an Instrument: Playing an instrument requires the use of both sides of the brain, which helps create the balance that is often damaged from the overuse of technology.
For most people, it simply is not possible to avoid technology altogether, nor is it recommended. The majority of time spent in front of a computer screen is typically attributed to time spent behind a desk at work or school. The truth is that technology typically won’t harm a healthy brain, which is why it’s important to maintain good brain health. Ensure there are times of the day that are technology free. Exploring the outdoors, reading, playing an instrument or a board game are all technology-free activities that can be used to give the brain a much-needed break. Much like the body, the brain requires exercise, and as long as it’s being challenged and stressed, it will continue to function properly.
Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada, but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at www.kalimuir.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.