Recently I came across the article, Social websites harm children’s brains: Chilling warning to parents from top neuroscientist,” and forwarded the link to my daughter (mother of two sons, 5 months old and 2 years old). Her reply was, “I worry about this a lot. Just add it to the list of things that keep me awake at night.” Last night, I was awake thinking about the daunting job that today’s parents face, and how our highly “wired” world will have an impact on the lives of our young children.100_13552

The article states that Professor Susan Greenfield, an Oxford University neuroscientist, believes repeated exposure to social networking sites and technologies could “rewire” the brain of young users and harm their ability to form human relationships. Computer games and fast-paced TV shows also are a concern. Her fear is that these technologies are infantilizing the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, have a small attention span and live for the moment. A teacher of 30 years told Greenfield she had noticed a sharp decline in the ability of her pupils to understand others. And the article noted that educational psychologist Jane Healy believes children should be kept away from computer games until they are seven, since most games only trigger the “flight or fight” region of the brain, rather than the vital areas responsible for reasoning.

As a long distance grandparent, my relationship with my grandsons is enhanced by technology. With Skype (video calls between computers), I can see them take their first steps, ask them questions, make funny faces at them and even read a book aloud as they turn the pages. My daughter also maintains a family blog where she posts videos and pictures of the boys to share with family and friends. Technology makes the distance more bearable, and offers the ability to share family moments.

As the boys grow older, it will be increasingly difficult to manage the influence and use of digital technology. I hope that additional research is underway to understand the effects of technology on children during their crucial stages of emotional, physical and mental development. Meanwhile, parents (and grandparents), caretakers and educators would be wise to take note of this current information, be aware of their own behavior as role models, and determine the role of technology in the lives of their young children—avoiding the negative aspects, yet harnessing the potential!

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