Scope — Spring 2011
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Is Technology Messing With Your Brain?

Is Technology Messing With Your Brain?


It’s 7:00 on a Sunday night, and Jeremy, 16, is doing his homework. Sort of.

He sits on his bed, laptop open, typing away on a paper about the Civil War.

He’s also on Facebook, reading his friends’ latest posts. And don’t forget YouTube; his buddy just sent him a clip from yesterday’s Saturday Night Live.


What’s that? Jeremy’s cell phone vibrates with a text from his girlfriend. Can’t ignore her! And, oh, did we mention that the TV is on? Jeremy is watching the L.A. Lakers play the San Antonio Spurs.

Go Lakers!

This kind of scene is playing out all over America—probably at your house too. Technology is everywhere, and it makes life easier and more fun. Facebook lets you stay in touch with your friends, even those halfway Across the country. With Google, you can find out the population of Congo in three seconds flat. YouTube videos make learning new things fast and convenient, from fixing a flat on your bike to making your own pizza dough. Skype enables kids to video chat with parents stationed in war zones like Afghanistan.

A Dangerous Distraction

Never before has it been easier To connect with people and get information.

The average American teenager owns three to four electronic gadgets— such as a phone, an iPod, a computer, or a gaming system. But many experts see all this technology as a dangerous distraction for young people like you. Hours spent at the computer or clutching the video game controller take you away from reallife relationships and activities, they say.

Plus, all this texting and posting and poking and Web-surfing may be changing more than your daily life. It could also be changing your brain.

Experts worry especially about kids like Jeremy, who spend hours each day watching TV, texting, and using Facebook and other social networking sites, all at the same time. This type of multitasking requires your brain to constantly Shift focus from one activity to another. Some brain scientists believe that before long, the brain— especially a growing brain like yours—may actually lose its ability to focus on a single activity for any length of time.

Your Brain Needs

a Break Technology overload can also affect the brain’s ability to store information. In a study recently published in the scientific journal Pediatrics, kids who played video games before bed had trouble remembering vocabulary words they’d tried to memorize earlier that day. It seems that the brain needs rest in order to sift through information and store memories.

Constant exposure to gaming and other electronic stimulation means the brain never gets a chance to cool down to this important resting state.

Finally, there’s the problem of simple distraction. Can you really write a great Civil War paper if you’re also texting and watching YouTube clips? Are you really paying attention to that episode of Glee if you’re Simultaneously posting pictures on Facebook? You don’t have to be a brain scientist to guess that the answer is no.

What about you? Does technology make your life better? Or is it turning you into a distracted mess?

You won’t find the answer on Google. Maybe your 1,000 Facebook friends will have some ideas, though!

“With so little free time, you have to learn to multi-task your TV watching, iPod listening, and texting with your homework.”