11 Mar 2014

Technology is Great, but too much Can Be Detrimental


There is no doubt that the use of technology has enhanced productivity and learning in many ways.  However, some of us are suspicious of the effects of overuse, and for good reason.  I recently attended a seminar by William Stixrud, an well known local neuropsychologist, and I would like to share with you what I learned.

Did you know that self regulation and executive functions (which control organization and planning) are better predictors of academic success than IQ? This applies to all grade levels, including college.

Research has found that increased technology use is associated with poorer executive and self regulation skills. (On the other hand, free play helps with executive functions.) Self regulation is associated with impulse control and the ability to plan and wait for a reward.  Think about which situations provide delayed rewards and which provide immediate rewards.  Video games are tempting because they provide instant gratification, and thus they are difficult competition with books, homework, chores, etc.

Engaging in too much technology not only hinders our patience with delayed rewards, but also plays a role in reducing creativity, active play and exercise, and sleep, all important factors in being healthy.  Time spent with technology also takes away from needed mental down time to just chill.

·         Does your child sleep with her phone and text people in the middle of the night?  Research has shown that 87% of teen cell phone users sleep with their phones on.

·         Are you and other family members constantly on the alert for emails and texts?  Are you on your phone instead of personally interacting with other family members?

·         Do you have family dinners?  Are family members attached to their phones at dinner or engaged in live conversations?

·         Are you addicted to Facebook?

Like most people these days, I frequently check my emails and voice mails. However, I rarely text and am the only member of my family without a smart phone and without a personal Facebook account.  I like to be in the real world.  When I’m out, I like to talk to actual people and enjoy nature.  If my friends have something personal to tell me, they know how to find me.  Sometimes I miss the opportunity to Google something on the spot, but I can wait. 

I don’t expect you to give up your phone, but consider having technology free periods of the day for your whole family.  Don’t let your kids sleep with their phones; the phones should be off and charging overnight.  Enjoy your e-books, but once in awhile get some regular books from the library.  Spend some unplugged time with your kids, doing something you all enjoy. Choose activities that involve nature, like hiking, camping, and biking; studies show that both nature and exercise can help reduce stress. Taking away your kids’ technology for periods of time may be hard, but it can provide appealing alternatives instead.  Ultimately, it will be worth the effort.

Studies have shown that screen time is an independent risk factor for stress, as well as attention and behavioral problems.  Screens of all kinds are here to stay, but take the challenge to find more alluring things to do.


Written by Cheryl Gedzelman, taken from lecture by William Stixrud, Ph.D. clinical neuropsychologist.

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