Technology Is Eating Your Teen’s Brain After All, And It’s Called Digital Dementia

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boy-with-video-gameNormally I don’t take the technology brain drain idea very seriously. I mean, I have had instances in my life when I’ve spent too much time in front of screens doing mindless activities and my brain has felt mushy afterward. Take my brief obsession with World of Warcraft. There were days I actually recoiled from sunlight, and I had a hard time carrying on intelligent conversation with other people. So yeah, this happens.

According to this study in South Korea, though, screen time has much more of a negative impact on children because their brains are still developing. discusses a case of a 15 year-old South Korean boy who is experiencing early-onset dementia, which psychiatrists have linked to the child’s overuse of digital technology.  Psychiatrist Kim Dae-jin explains:

“His brain’s ability to transfer information to long-term memory has been impaired because of his heavy exposure to digital gadgets,” the psychiatrist told the Korea


South Korea is highly wired — 65 percent of teens have smartphones — and doctors said they were finding a growing number of cases of memory problems, attention disorders and emotional flattening among children and teens who spent a lot of time Web searching, texting and using multimedia.


“Overuse of smartphones and game devices hampers the balanced development of the brain,” said Byun Gi-won, who runs the Balance Brain Center in Seoul, which helps those with cognitive problems related to computers and smartphones.


I want specifics, though. The article doesn’t state what kinds of games this child was involved in, or which smartphone activities contribute the most to digital dementia. I have a hard time believing that “web searching” has such a negative impact — especially if one is searching for new information on a topic of interest. Staring all day at cat gifs is different than reading the New York Times or browsing book reviews, right? Right?

But I do see the serious danger in overexposure for children. I want to protect my daughter from digital dementia, and I have every intention of keeping smartphones and tablets out of her hands until she’s a teenager. But my husband’s a serious gamer, and I’m sure she’ll play video games with him and her friends as soon as she can use a controller.

But hoo, boy, these findings also spell trouble for our cultural animosity toward video games — especially the part about “emotional flattening.” If this really is the case, that heavy screen time desensitizes us, maybe there is some inkling of truth in the idea that violent video games make for violent people.

I need to go for a walk.

(photo: milias1987 / Shutterstock)