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Are iPads rewiring our children's brains?


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#1 AmityD

Posted 09 August 2012 - 03:06 PM

Like so many preschoolers today, my daughter started using an iPad well before her first birthday. She’d watched her parents use one from birth, so it was only natural that as soon as her tiny fingers could swipe a screen she would imitate this behaviour and learn how to operate one herself.

And it’s only natural that, as time-poor parents, we would download age-appropriate apps for her, reassuring ourselves of their educational benefits while enjoying the free babysitting service for a while.

It’s win/win, right? This generation is learning early, they’ll be tech-savvy geniuses by the time they’re 10. We’re doing them a favour. It’s not doing any harm. Right?

Well, no-one really knows.

It turns out that this generation of toddlers, who have been exposed to iPads since birth, are guinea pigs. Studies on how the device affects the development of young children are still years away. However, there are plenty of child development experts and who are already concerned.

"Unfortunately a lot of the real-life experimentation is going to be done by parents who now have young kids," Glenda Revelle, associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Arkansas, told The Wall Street Journal in May this year.

Children’s screen time is already worryingly high, with the iPad’s popularity expected to increase that amount. According to UK psychologist Dr Aric Sigman, by the time they’re seven years old the average child born today will have spent one full year of 24-hour days watching screen media. And he believes this over-exposure is leading to a generation of children who are developing a lifelong dependency on small screens.

Most worryingly, Dr Sigman says that playing computer games for so long could lead to long-term changes in the brain – changes that resemble the effects of substance dependence.

Michael Rich, director of Boston’s Center on Media and Child Health, says that the brain chemical dopamine, often associated with pleasure, is released when kids play games. Many apps are designed to encourage children to keep playing by offering rewards or exciting visuals at unpredictable times – which, Rich says, “gives a dopamine squirt".

That dopamine rush is the same effect triggered by playing the pokies, which we all know can lead to serious addiction and devastating consequences.

As a parent who has confiscated the iPad after too much use and then had to deal with the resulting meltdowns, I can attest that the addiction is already forming in my kids. So these findings had me fairly horrified.

Yet the worst was yet to come: I came across the Newsweek article ‘Is the Internet making us mad?’

“The current incarnation of the internet ... may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic.”

The article quotes some truly frightening research, including this: “Chinese researchers found ‘abnormal white matter’ – essentially extra nerve cells built for speed – in the areas charged with attention, control, and executive function. A parallel study found similar changes in the brains of videogame addicts.

“[This came] on the heels of other Chinese results that link internet addiction to ‘structural abnormalities in gray matter’, namely shrinkage of 10 to 20 percent in the area of the brain responsible for processing of speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information.”

Now clearly, most of us aren’t allowing our preschoolers to become truly addicted to Facebook and Angry Birds quite yet. But are we introducing them to something potentially dangerous at the most crucial time in their brain development? After all, a child’s neurological pathways are formed within the first three years, with the results affecting their entire lives.

It certainly sounds very doomsday and plenty of people will argue against such fear mongering. My husband is one of them; he sees no difference between our six-year-old’s obsession with Minecraft and his own childhood Lego obsession, saying that both involve building and creating.

It’s true I’m often incredibly impressed with my son’s creativity at Minecraft, and agree it has lots of benefits. However, Lego is dexterous and encourages group play, whereas Minecraft is solitary and inspires a trance-like state in our little boy.

(In Minecraft’s favour, the cities he creates online are limited only by his imagination, while his Lego worlds are limited by Lego being ridiculously expensive.)

My husband isn’t overly worried about our children’s iPad use, arguing that they need to keep up with technological progress, and that if there’s any negative consequences a whole generation will be in the same boat. That’s an argument I don’t find particularly comforting.

However, there are certainly positives for young children using iPads, with psychologists reporting fantastic results in their use with autistic children. And perhaps those kids who don’t have parents reading and interacting with them at home will be able to partially fill that void with their own iPad as the technology becomes cheaper and more readily available. A parent reading to their child will always be ideal, but an e-book reading aloud to a child is certainly better than nothing.

As with everything else, moderation seems to be key. I admit that on our recent eight-hour road trip there was no moderation to be had; our iPad might as well have been gold plated for what it was worth to me that day. But after reading these reports I will be keeping its use in check – for my children, at least. My brain’s obviously already fried, so why stop now?

Plus, I may need a few of those ‘feel good’ dopamine squirts after I break the news about the new iPad time limits …

Are your kids 'addicted' to the iPad, iPhone or computer games? Do you notice a change in their behaviour if they're on them too much? Do you set limits on their use and what are they? And are you worried about the effect they may be having or do you think it's the way of the future? I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Edited by AmityD, 09 August 2012 - 07:13 PM.


#2 kay11

Posted 09 August 2012 - 04:32 PM

You know if you want to talk about scientific research in an article maybe a link to the actual research and articles would be helpful. A lot of science bloggers do this and newspapers seem to be starting to do it too.

#3 Alacritous~Andy

Posted 09 August 2012 - 04:57 PM

I work with adults with addiction, and increasingly am getting more referrals for work with internet/gaming addiction (particulalrly young men, say 18-25).  I think the increase of this sort of case is due more to word of mouth that this an area I am comfortable working in, rather than a massive surge in the frequency of the problem.  

Anecdotally, most issues seem to relate to violent MMRPGs (war and killing games) and pornography.  Both of which, a case can be made for being particularly good at reenforcing that "dopamine response".  

Addiction pathways are complex things.  I'm on my iPad now Tounge1.gif which makes it hard for me to type an elaborate response, but in short, I think that, yes, there is reason to be concerned, BUT not all electronic content is created equal.

#4 AmityD

Posted 09 August 2012 - 07:04 PM

Apologies for this, I meant to link to them and forgot. I have added the two main article links and there is another interesting one here..

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/201...ids-Brains.aspx

QUOTE (kay11 @ 09/08/2012, 05:32 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
You know if you want to talk about scientific research in an article maybe a link to the actual research and articles would be helpful. A lot of science bloggers do this and newspapers seem to be starting to do it too.

Edited by AmityD, 09 August 2012 - 07:14 PM.


#5 HerringToMarmalade

Posted 09 August 2012 - 07:13 PM

Everything you do 'rewires' your brain. Making your kid practise the piano everyday is going to change their brain. Doing sudoku everyday will change your brain even though you're an adult. Surgeons who play video games have significantly better fine motor skills than those who don't. ipads etc aren't bad in themselves but I think their availability can cause some issues, like the availability of gambling online has made it easier for addicts to access. Moderation is key.

#6 liveworkplay

Posted 09 August 2012 - 07:44 PM

We are not an igadget household, my DH doesn't even have a smart phone laughing2.gif Our kids use macs and ipads at school and I have an ipod touch (although it has morphed into the family ipod) We  limit ipod/computer use and very rarely do we let them sit on them for long periods at a time. It lhelps that there are three of them so any one session, every one has to take turns and share.

As for rewiring the brain, as a PP said, that happens with everything that we do....its how we learn. What sort of impact it will have in the future, only time will tell but I think in moderation, it cannot be any worse then any other of  civilisations "evils" though out history.

#7 Crap Napper

Posted 09 August 2012 - 08:04 PM

I think also, as with many things, if you sit and play a game WITH your child, or discuss the picture they are painting, or talk about the book the iPad is reading to them, then the iPad becomes little more than another tool in their learning as opposed to a babysitter. This helps the child to maximise their gain from the experience, and builds the relationship between parent and child.

BUT there are also times when you need a babysitter. We used to have villages to raise our children. Now we have appliances, and as sad as that sounds, sometimes we need that. As long as we're not kidding ourselves that we can substitute interaction with gadgets, it's all OK in moderation.

#8 kpingitquiet

Posted 09 August 2012 - 08:34 PM

Maybe it is...I guess we'll see what the next 20 years shows. We might be a bit odd, I don't know, but we're rather geeky folk (both have been IT professionals, both previously involved in online gaming) and have taken a much slower approach to technology with our daughter.

The only things she's ever done on any gadgets of ours are to talk on the phone/skype with family, help flip through photos (usually of her) and a bit of Toddler Lock app during our 14hr flight. She has a few "toy gadgets" like a phone and a colors-numbers laptop. We're giving her a see-and-spell kind of thing for Christmas. That's it, and to me it seems like enough. I am not going to be getting her any additional gadgets anytime soon, nor allowing her increased access to ours. I think mimicking is a great way to learn and she can do that just fine on a toy. I don't see the need for her to have more before she can even say her full name. I'm really fearful of the day that she starts demands of "iphone, iphone, iphone!" instead of the current "Want book! More book!"

#9 fick

Posted 09 August 2012 - 08:45 PM

By virtue of my job (and my personality), we're a technologically loaded household. We have smartphones and ipads, our DD is almost 1 (at the end of this month) and she has no idea how to use either my smartphone or my ipad. She loves to hold my phone and turn it over in her hands, but she has no interest (yet) in operating it.

Then again, DD also has no interest, at all, in television. We'll see if that changes.

#10 PooksLikeChristmas

Posted 09 August 2012 - 08:47 PM

I'm not worried.

Parents were worried about TVs and PCs in my day and I turned out fine wacko.gif

#11 xela1974

Posted 09 August 2012 - 10:18 PM

QUOTE (kpingitquiet @ 09/08/2012, 09:34 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Maybe it is...I guess we'll see what the next 20 years shows. We might be a bit odd, I don't know, but we're rather geeky folk (both have been IT professionals, both previously involved in online gaming) and have taken a much slower approach to technology with our daughter.

The only things she's ever done on any gadgets of ours are to talk on the phone/skype with family, help flip through photos (usually of her) and a bit of Toddler Lock app during our 14hr flight. She has a few "toy gadgets" like a phone and a colors-numbers laptop. We're giving her a see-and-spell kind of thing for Christmas. That's it, and to me it seems like enough. I am not going to be getting her any additional gadgets anytime soon, nor allowing her increased access to ours. I think mimicking is a great way to learn and she can do that just fine on a toy. I don't see the need for her to have more before she can even say her full name. I'm really fearful of the day that she starts demands of "iphone, iphone, iphone!" instead of the current "Want book! More book!"



YES YES YES!!!! Similar here, though we are and never really have been gamers!

@ the article: Your kids couldn't handle an 8 hr trip??? ARE YOU SERIOUS??? What happened to paper and pencils????? or A BOOK???
Seriously, last summer when my kids were 6 and 1/2 and not yet 3 we travelled over 500 km's (which all in all was probably more than 8hrs of car time) to our holiday destination (and back) in a VW Golf!!! Not once did my kids have an issue or a tantrum or a problem. And there was not an iPad in sight - in fact, no tech gadgets (except for a kid photo camera for them to take kid's view pictures) in sight full stop! Not even a portable DVD! My kids got books, a travel table with textas, crayons, colouring books and writing pads, and some stickers to keep themselves busy - they get similar when we go out to dinner (and we constantly get complimented by the restaurant staff of how well behaved our kids are).
It also helps to break up the long journeys with frequent enough stops (coffee, toilet, lunch, etc) and also stop overs (good to get a nights rest to break up a long journey).

Work around the kids' capabilities, don't numb and dumb them with useless tech devices. Count trucks, cars, sheep/horses en route. sing songs. Play I-spy. Get them to notice the scenery being passed - let the admire nature and the country side. And yes, allow them to GET BORED!!! That way they will truely appreciate the destination when they get there! And it will also teach them that it is OK to be bored. Boredom and be a great tool... And a great inspiration for CREATIVE THOUGHT!!!

Sheesh!!!



#12 missgeorgina

Posted 11 August 2012 - 08:31 PM

QUOTE (xela1974 @ 09/08/2012, 10:18 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
YES YES YES!!!! Similar here, though we are and never really have been gamers!

@ the article: Your kids couldn't handle an 8 hr trip??? ARE YOU SERIOUS??? What happened to paper and pencils????? or A BOOK???
Seriously, last summer when my kids were 6 and 1/2 and not yet 3 we travelled over 500 km's (which all in all was probably more than 8hrs of car time) to our holiday destination (and back) in a VW Golf!!! Not once did my kids have an issue or a tantrum or a problem. And there was not an iPad in sight - in fact, no tech gadgets (except for a kid photo camera for them to take kid's view pictures) in sight full stop! Not even a portable DVD! My kids got books, a travel table with textas, crayons, colouring books and writing pads, and some stickers to keep themselves busy - they get similar when we go out to dinner (and we constantly get complimented by the restaurant staff of how well behaved our kids are).
It also helps to break up the long journeys with frequent enough stops (coffee, toilet, lunch, etc) and also stop overs (good to get a nights rest to break up a long journey).

Work around the kids' capabilities, don't numb and dumb them with useless tech devices. Count trucks, cars, sheep/horses en route. sing songs. Play I-spy. Get them to notice the scenery being passed - let the admire nature and the country side. And yes, allow them to GET BORED!!! That way they will truely appreciate the destination when they get there! And it will also teach them that it is OK to be bored. Boredom and be a great tool... And a great inspiration for CREATIVE THOUGHT!!!

Sheesh!!!


Amen to the above.  We usually take books, pencils, kids music and play I spy on long car trips.  We also try and stop regularly.  No ipads or dvd players to be seen..

#13 Elskye

Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:31 AM

xela1974 I couldn't agree more!!!

#14 CherrySunday

Posted 14 August 2012 - 10:43 AM

QUOTE (xela1974 @ 09/08/2012, 10:18 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
YES YES YES!!!! Similar here, though we are and never really have been gamers!

@ the article: Your kids couldn't handle an 8 hr trip??? ARE YOU SERIOUS??? What happened to paper and pencils????? or A BOOK???
Seriously, last summer when my kids were 6 and 1/2 and not yet 3 we travelled over 500 km's (which all in all was probably more than 8hrs of car time) to our holiday destination (and back) in a VW Golf!!! Not once did my kids have an issue or a tantrum or a problem. And there was not an iPad in sight - in fact, no tech gadgets (except for a kid photo camera for them to take kid's view pictures) in sight full stop! Not even a portable DVD! My kids got books, a travel table with textas, crayons, colouring books and writing pads, and some stickers to keep themselves busy - they get similar when we go out to dinner (and we constantly get complimented by the restaurant staff of how well behaved our kids are).
It also helps to break up the long journeys with frequent enough stops (coffee, toilet, lunch, etc) and also stop overs (good to get a nights rest to break up a long journey).

Work around the kids' capabilities, don't numb and dumb them with useless tech devices. Count trucks, cars, sheep/horses en route. sing songs. Play I-spy. Get them to notice the scenery being passed - let the admire nature and the country side. And yes, allow them to GET BORED!!! That way they will truely appreciate the destination when they get there! And it will also teach them that it is OK to be bored. Boredom and be a great tool... And a great inspiration for CREATIVE THOUGHT!!!

Sheesh!!!

roll2.gif

Even I get bored in the car, I'd go mental without something to do. Reading, drawing or writing makes me motion sick, and did as a child, same with my brothers.
Good on you for having such perfect kids that don't whine in the car, but for some people, the complaining & tantrums can get dangerous.

#15 tmandie

Posted 14 August 2012 - 02:26 PM

there is certainly a place for it. All in moderation. Chocolate is ok! SOmetimes good for you! Maybe not if you ate it all the time.....

#16 katniss

Posted 21 August 2012 - 12:09 AM

Wow, something must be wrong with my children. 8 hours in a car with them would be hell! They are 5 and 3. They can't sit still for even 5 mins. They want to be on the move constantly. Paper, pencils and books wouldn't keep them entertained for 8 hours straight yet they both do love reading and drawing. I wouldn't let them use the iPad or watch a dvd for 8 hours straight but I would definitely be using it in conjunction with other things like drawing, reading, talking to eachother and singing.

*shrugs* I'm a big one on everything in moderation. Plus I love gadgets and technology myself so I'm not going to be able to keep my boys away from it. As with anything, too much is not good. But if you set up parameters initially then I can't see it being a problem.

#17 robhat

Posted 22 August 2012 - 08:45 PM

The point is this, during the early years, kids learn things that they often can't learn later in life. Language learning for example. Most of the important and basic wiring of our brains is done in the first few years and it's important that kids are active and playing with real 3D toys and interacting with real people etc. For example, the ability to do a puzzle on an ipad isn't actually the same skill as doing a real puzzle and I have seen kids who can expertly do one on an iphone, but can't do a basic real life one.

There isn't so much wrong with TV and iphones etc, it's more that too much time spent on them reduces time spent learning other things, especially when they are used as a substitute for real life experiences. No, your ipad actually can't teach your kid to read as well as you can...

It's true there is now a lot of technology and that our kids will need to use it and understand it, but unlike other skills, technology skills don't need to be learnt in the early years. None of us had iphones as kids and we have very little trouble using them now. In fact they are designed to be easy to use and future models are only going to get easier to use. You do not need to train or expose small children to technology so young. They will pick it up just fine later. My daughter never touched a computer until she was 4. She hasn't yet turned 5 and she can use the class ipad at preschool just as well as the rest of the class and can use our computer at home just fine too. No need to start them at 1 or 2 years old! It's a great babysitter if you need one and I use TV and DVDs like everyone else for this purpose. Just don't go kidding yourselves that your kids NEED to learn to use technology so young!

And yes, an added advantage is that my daughter can also entertain herself for quite a while without an iphone (I don't have one!) although 8 hours in a car would require a lot of effort on my part and I probably would resort to an ipad or DVD player, in fact we're considering getting one for the 16 hour flight to South Africa in December...  Tounge1.gif




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