Is the internet affecting our brains? “The new technologies modify the functioning of the brain thanks to its plasticity”. The impact of the Internet on the human brain: As much we recognize the benefits of the Internet. As much we must admit also his misdeeds. In other words, there is no point in denying the fact that the Internet does not change the brain. In this article, we will expose it clearly and solidly on this subject.
Our brain, eminently plastic, would have already adapted to the intense use of these new technologies, as it would have adapted in the past to the invention of writing or the development of reading. They would have modified the functioning of our memory, our attention, our relationship to learning, and more deeply our intelligence, our way of apprehending the world and thinking about it.
Recent research in neuroscience has shown that brain plasticity means that neuronal connections change constantly depending on the experiences, but also the tools we use.
1 –How Is the Internet Affecting Our Brains
Spending time playing online, navigating from one site to another, reading, or maintaining social networks has different impacts on the brain. Far from being fixed, it evolves constantly thanks to its plasticity.
The work of the brain consists, schematically, in intercepting, memorizing, and processing the information that reaches it from all sensory sensors (nose, mouth, ear). In front of a screen is the eye that is put to contribution. However, it is established that the eye-brain connection is poorly adapted to this way of reading: the processing time of visual information is increased by more than 30% on a screen. In normal conditions, when read, the human eye can only distinguish four to six signs at a time during an “eye-fixation” that lasts about two hundred and fifty milliseconds. In front of a screen, the eye panics. The signs are much more numerous in terms of shapes and colors; they arise, capture, are stealthy, and require more attention.
A PewResearch study conducted in January 2015 found that Internet use in general and the use of social media, in particular, is not as stressful as some have said in the past.
Today we live in a connected world where social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and others are important to share and discover digital experiences. While some said they were causing increased stress, the findings of this study tempered things but did not rule out health consequences.
Technology Increases the Individual’s Awareness
Overall, the frequent use of the Internet and social media is not a high-stress factor. At the same time, the data show that there are circumstances where the social use of digital technology increases the individual’s awareness of the stressful life events of others. This means that users who feel more stressed have higher levels of awareness of stressful life events in others.
Thus, events that could increase the level of stress are for example personal information published on Facebook or other social networks:
– The announcement of the death of a child, a family member, a friend, or a spouse,
– The announcement of hospitalization, serious injury,
– The discovery of police investigations and arrests.
2 – How Is the Internet Affecting Our Brains by Activating New Areas of the Brain?
The brain thanks to its elasticity develops with the new information. At each learning they are new neural circuits that are put in place, allowing the brain to adapt to changes.
Young people would be more responsive, more able to make decisions, and, above all, more creative. The young people of this generation who write in text language, also think in text language: they develop a spirit of synthesis, are able to treat several subjects at the same time; they deepen less, but they associate ideas with each other in a completely new way. The human brain is adapting.
3 – Less Memory Effort with the Internet
People who get used to using the Internet as a source of information and fact, as external memory, tend to make less effort to memorize. The way to use short-term memory is changing. One of the consequences is that there is less transfer of information to the long-term memory, storage memory that allows us to build our values.
What Overloads the Brain?
The short-term memory is, with the Web, faster saturated: at any time, the user will look for information on different links, read diagonally, choose between a particular multimedia content … What overload his brain.
This is also true for anyone juggling email, social networks like Facebook, documentation sites: being “multitasking” does not help to memorize or focus. For now, the brain has not yet adapted to simultaneous tasks.
The two hundred thousand visual information that reaches the brain every second is much more difficult to memorize because it does not reach it with the same cadence, with the same consistency.
On the Internet, too much data is losing the thread, interrupt brain processes. This translates directly into overheating of the working memory.
Scholastic learning, the intelligence of the “by heart” no longer run. The question is no longer memorizing knowledge, especially since knowledge is available everywhere, all the time.
4 – Reading on the Screen Does Not Activate the Same Areas of the Brain
The Web is accustomed to fragmented reading at the expense of linear reading, which undermines understanding and disperses attention. Because of this distracting thought, this diagonal reading reads 25% more slowly than on paper.
Read on-screen solicits only the area related to decision-making and problem-solving. With tablets or smartphones, spending a lot of time with texts under the eyes, activated brain areas are different than with a book. Just because on the screen, reading is complex, it requires effort to know whether or not to click on a link to go further in the text.
By browsing through a book, the brain uses the regions of language, memory, and visual processing.
5 – How Is the Internet Affecting Our Brains Because of Addiction?
According to the study conducted by the University of Salford in England for Anxiety UK in July 2012, 45% of respondents say they are “worried or uncomfortable” when they cannot access their Facebook account or to their mailbox. And 60% feel the need to turn off their phone, computer, or smartphone to have peace. One in three people admits that they have to do it several times a day. An addiction that plays on sleep, since 66% of respondents have difficulty falling asleep after surfing a social network.
According to a Mobile Mindset survey of 750 people in California, most under the 50s check their SMS, emails, and accounts “all the time” or “every 15 minutes”. It turned out that the users studied had the traits of a “compulsive” character. 73% of people would panic if they lost their cell phones.
People Suffer from Behavioral Disorders
According to studies conducted in psychiatry, there is still a common trait for all cyber-addicts: in addition to this addiction, they suffer from behavioral disorders such as social phobia or panic attacks.
Compulsive Internet browsing is proof of how is the internet affecting our brains because of addiction. One watches for information or the exciting message, which, when it arrives, functions as a reward. And it makes you want to go back more and more to the risk of cutting yourself off from real life.
In addition, the slightest annoyance such as an email that does not arrive or a lack of time to surf the Web can make the person irritable; prevent him from focusing on his work or his studies.
What Is Nomophobia?
Nomophobia is a relationship of relative dependence or addiction of people anxious at the thought of ending up without their favorite phone.
Nomophobia and also the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) phenomenon, which is the constant control of one’s social networks for fear of missing something, is tantamount to a form of dependence.
Many experiences and testimonials of users of these technologies show that the deprivation of these objects and more broadly of access to the internet affects individuals at different levels. Because the object is not simply a communication tool but it has become the medium of a large number of personal data and a window that connects them constantly to their relatives and friends, which gives them the feeling of not being complete when they are deprived of it.
Feelings of Isolation
This promotes the creation of a strong bond of psychological belonging that can even go to the affective link with the object. Psychologists of addiction services have found among the most addicted users and especially among the youngest, the appearance of feelings of isolation and withdrawal and anguish related to being cut off.
In children. This is how one can become dependent on one’s smartphone, with the need to consult it permanently, compulsively. Children’s attention needs more than ever to be educated, to teach the brain to prioritize, and to focus on the most relevant activity: a text that we are reading for example.
6 – Video Games and Social Networks
The excessive consumption of screens during adolescence is, as a rule, not a sign of psychological disorders. On the other hand, it is true that the excessive use of screens can harm other activities, and the parents must regulate it.
The American Academy of Pediatrics proposed in 1999 a guide for parents:
– No screen before 2 years. Experts today agree to speak of 3 years.
– One hour per day between 3 and 6 years, 2 hours between 6-9 years, and 3 hours beyond.
But this is global real-time, including TV, computer to play, computer to work, portable console.
Parents Have to Fit the Playing Time
Parents have to fit the playing time because, in adolescence, young people have not yet acquired the opportunity to regulate their own impulses. They have difficulty following the decisions they consider most reasonable for them. This is why parents must ensure that video games only occupy part of their leisure time.
But at the same time, framing is totally insufficient. Because video games have many positive aspects and parents have everything to gain from them. When parents accompany by taking an interest in the games of their children, they know how to frame with much more intelligence and efficiency. Framing without accompanying is as useless as wanting to accompany without framing. Both are indispensable.
The practice of video games, like that of new social networks, changes the relationship to space, time, the construction of identity, and the place we give to shared activities and solitary activities.
Such a revolution has already accompanied other great innovations, such as the invention of writing, and, to a lesser extent, the diffusion of the book through printing.
Between Age 3 and 6
Between ages 3 and 6, studies have shown that it is essential for the child to have activities involving the use of his ten fingers. That is why traditionally, the child at this age was invited to make cuts, foldings, collages, coloring … It is this activity of the ten fingers that allows the maturation of the brain regions that allow the apprehension of objects in three dimensions. This is why it is best to avoid as much as possible that the child at this age uses a game console that mobilizes only two or four fingers.
All that socializes the child through the screen and all that invites him to ask questions and solve unforeseen problems promotes its development. On the other hand, all the repetitive, stereotypical, and still solitary games are worrying.
7 – Internet Asks the Brain to Develop Its Adaptability
The brains of the new generations, and indeed of all those who are big consumers of new technologies, no longer work as in the past. The desire for a quick response, moving quickly from one subject to another, the difficulty of concentration, all this is part of the new ways of working.
If the brain changes, then it also changes for the better, because, with its multiple paths, with the infinity of the available sources, the web leads to develop a critical spirit, an ability to develop a point of view and to confront it with the other. The data change, become obsolete, and require regular updates, a permanent doubt.
We must redefine what intelligence is. Until now, it was defined in IQ tests by a series of responses to closed questions that correlated with each other. This form of coherence is no longer relevant. We must learn to live with unstable information, partial answers, in a moving world.
8 – Cognitive or Reflexive Faculties Can Be Reinforced and Improved by Regular Use
The use of smartphones mobilizes what is called the transactive or procedural memory that resides in technical skills and know-how, which inevitably correlates to strengthen them. Individuals are very familiar with and appropriate to these technologies and the modes of navigation that are inherent in them.
The school must explain to children at primary school the three basic rules of the Internet: everything that is put in it can fall into the public domain; all that is put there will remain eternally, and all that one finds there is questionable because it is impossible to locate the images of the reality of the falsified images.
Before being a place where new technologies are used, schools should be a place where teachers know them well enough to warn children of their dangers and pitfalls.
Usage Tips: Use the Internet Well
Making good use of the Internet requires knowing what is right and what is not. Hence the importance of developing critical thinking in selecting information, identifying and retaining sites that seem most reliable, including indicating their sources.
When used well, the Internet can help improve educational outcomes: in this case, young people would develop certain mental strategies that would allow them to better organize their knowledge than others.
If the working memory – the immediate memory – can saturate, the long memory, where the memories are stored is wonderfully extensible. The amount of information that can be stored in long-term memory is virtually limitless.
Regarding the prefrontal cortex, it is especially its role in short-term memory that is highly sought after, because you can surf without really making decisions, letting yourself be guided by hypertext links. Surfing, like crosswords, would be very beneficial to seniors, because it allows the exercise of agility of the mind.
At school, mobile devices are increasingly used to make learning more fun and it is found that children have all the facilities in the world to use them in an intuitive way.