Is Technology Affecting Today's Children?

Do our children benefit from today's Technological world?

Are our children's brains being developed correctly by the use of computers, mobile phones and other devices?

Are our children growing up being children or being part of a ever changing society that relies on the technological world for it's development?



The capacity to reflect, reason, and draw conclusions based on our experiences, knowledge, and insights. It’s what makes us human and has enabled us to communicate, create, build, advance, and become civilized. Thinking encompasses so many aspects of who our children are and what they do, from observing, learning, remembering, questioning, and judging to innovating, arguing, deciding, and acting.

There is also little doubt that all of the new technologies, led by the Internet, are shaping the way we think in ways obvious and subtle, deliberate and unintentional, and advantageous and detrimental The uncertain reality is that, with this new technological frontier in its infancy and developments emerging at a rapid pace, we have neither the benefit of historical hindsight nor the time to ponder or examine the value and cost of these advancements in terms of how it influences our children’s ability to think.

There is, however, a growing body of research that technology can be both beneficial and harmful to different ways in which children think. Moreover, this influence isn’t just affecting children on the surface of their thinking. Rather, because their brains are still developing and malleable, frequent exposure by so-called digital natives to technology is actually wiring the brain in ways very different than in previous generations. What is clear is that, as with advances throughout history, the technology that is available determines how our brains develops. For example, as the technology writer Nicholas Carr has observed, the emergence of reading encouraged our brains to be focused and imaginative. In contrast, the rise of the Internet is strengthening our ability to scan information rapidly and efficiently.

The effects of technology on children are complicated, with both benefits and costs. Whether technology helps or hurts in the development of your children’s thinking depends on what specific technology is used and how and what frequency it is used. At least early in their lives, the power to dictate your children’s relationship with technology and, as a result, its influence on them, from synaptic activity to conscious thought.

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to focus on the areas in which the latest thinking and research has shown technology to have the greatest influence on how children think: attention, information overload, decision making, and memory/learning. Importantly, all of these areas are ones in which you can have a counteracting influence on how technology affects your children.


You can think of attention as the gateway to thinking. Without it, other aspects of thinking, namely, perception, memory, language, learning,creativity, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making are greatly diminished or can’t occur at all. The ability of your children to learn to focus effectively and consistently lays the foundation for almost all aspects of their growth and is fundamental to their development into successful and happy people.

Attention has been found to be a highly malleable quality and most directly influenced by the environment in which it is used. This selective attention can be found in the animal kingdom in which different species develop attentional skills that help them function and survive. For example, wolves, lions, tigers, and other predators have highly tuned visual attention that enables them to spot and track their prey. In contract, their prey, including deer and antelope, have well-developed auditory attention that allows them to hear approaching predators. In both cases, animals’ attentional abilities have developed based on the environment in which they live.

The same holds true for human development. Whether infant recognition of their parents’ faces or students paying attention in class, children’s immediate environment determines the kind of attention that they develop. In generations past, for example, children directed considerable amounts of their time to reading, an activity that offered few distractions and required intense and sustained attention, imagination, and memory. The advent of television altered that attention by offering children visual stimuli, fragmented attention, and little need for imagination. Then the Internet was invented and children were thrust into a vastly different environment in which, because distraction is the norm, consistent attention is impossible, imagination is unnecessary, and memory is inhibited.

Technology conditions the brain to pay attention to information very differently than reading. The metaphor that Nicholas Carr uses is the difference between scuba diving and jet skiing. Book reading is like scuba diving in which the diver is submerged in a quiet, visually restricted, slow-paced setting with few distractions and, as a result, is required to focus narrowly and think deeply on the limited information that is available to them. In contrast, using the Internet is like jet skiing, in which the jet skier is skimming along the surface of the water at high speed, exposed to a broad vista, surrounded by many distractions, and only able to focus fleetingly on any one thing.

In fact, studies have shown that reading uninterrupted text results in faster completion and better understanding, recall, and learning than those who read text filled with hyperlinks and ads. Those who read a text-only version of a presentation, as compared to one that included video, found the presentation to be more engaging, informative, and entertaining, a finding contrary to conventional wisdom, to be sure. Additionally, contrary to conventional educational wisdom, students who were allowed Internet access during class didn’t recall the lecture nor did they perform as well on a test of the material as those who weren’t “wired” during class. Finally, reading develops reflection, critical thinking, problem solving, and vocabulary better than visual media.

Exposure to technology isn’t all bad. Research shows that, for example, video games and other screen media improve visual-spatial capabilities, increase attentional ability, reaction times, and the capacity to identify details among clutter. Also, rather than making children stupid, it may just be making them different. For example, the ubiquitous use of Internet search engines is causing children to become less adept at remembering things and more skilled at remembering where to find things. Given the ease with which information can be find these days, it only stands to reason that knowing where to look is becoming more important for children than actually knowing something. Not having to retain information in our brain may allow it to engage in more “higher-order” processing such as contemplation, critical thinking, and problem solving.

What does all this mean for raising your children? The bottom line is that too much screen time and not enough other activities, such as reading, playing games, and good old unstructured and imaginative play, will result in your children having their brains wired in ways that may make them less, not more, prepared to thrive in this crazy new world of technology.


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Comment by Joao Fernandes on February 1, 2013 at 2:47am

Whilst we cannot police our children from the environment, it is still our moral and parental duty to ensure that they don't forget that "yes" we are children and "yes" we as parents should be able to ensure that they have a balanced child like life. Albeit difficult for some, others do still believe in allowing their children to be "Born free, as free as the wind blows......." 

Comment by OregonShout _YoUNITY on February 1, 2013 at 12:49am

WE cannot police-our children from the environment...we can only guide them to higher values with a greater -carrot- of pleasure. For that they will surpass the harlotry of arrogance displayed by Hollywood and the like....More-so by the industrial military machine utilizing imagery into ignorance of morality...Sad times ahead IF WE the people do not require a stiffer requirement for Integral Education for this next generation..If WE succeed in that,... Then WE will not teach war -no more.

Comment by JenSocial on January 30, 2013 at 7:26pm

You know what Joao? I agree. And, I completely hold the parents responsible if their children aren't playing outside part of the time. The children in my family probably have every technological device they could ever want, and the expertise to use them. However, their parents encourage them to be outside, be children, enforce time away from phones, tablets, games and computers, and encourage real social skills. We can only hope that more parents are doing this, than we realize. I feel very hopeful that the latter is true. In fact, I was hoping a parent would blast me for generalizing. ;-)

Comment by Joao Fernandes on January 30, 2013 at 6:42pm

I see the pro's and con's of it. The only sad thing about all this is the fact that children forget to be children. I remember growing up playing in the fields with my friends, fishing etc... (technology back then wasn't so advanced). Now, our kids sit at home on the computer, ipad, mobile phone and any other device that's available. It's sad, because I feel that the aspect of being out in the open playing around with their friends seems to be slipping away from our children. I'm not saying all children are this way, but a vast majority certainly devote their life to the sms and other cyber products available. On the other side of the coin, I suppose we can't do without technology, because it makes the world go around. There might need to be a better balancing act on the part of us adults who have children.


Comment by JenSocial on January 30, 2013 at 4:21pm

It is definitely affecting our children - - building a new super race of intelligence, because they are exposed to technology at every turn, at such young ages. And, I see no problems with this. It's actually pretty awesome. It's the social aspect that scares me. Don't get me started on "texting". I swore I'd never "text". But I do, and it comes in quite handy. But, do I text and drive? Absolutely not! Kids do, non-stop. Adults do too. I get so upset with people driving and texting, scares me to death. I never see it getting better. So many people die from wrecks caused by this technology.

Now, what about online Socializing? Some kids today are becoming completely devoid of normal human emotion, in their comatose states, being practically unaware that a "real" World exists around them, don't even get me started. We're raising a generation of socially retarded, desensitized, potential monsters. I'm not saying all kids, but a great majority. And most of it, isn't their fault. That's what's sad. They don't know any different.

Just my thoughts,



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