EFFECTS OF MODERN TECHNOLOGY ON THE MIND AND BRAIN OF CHILDREN & YOUTH
Today’s youth is surrounded by all kinds of technological facilities – technological growth and proliferation has equipped them with varied means which they utilize and use to their full potential. The chief among them are – TVs with multi-channel facilities, Computer, Mobiles, MP3 players, e-mail and internet, and different types of Social Media. Where on the one hand the easy availability of these media has helped them come out of the boundaries of their cities, towns, villages and also countries, on the other hand, the same has affected badly the working ability, the grasping power and the working speed of their brains. Let us understand this by taking only one of the examples cited above – the Television.
Today almost every household has a Television, to say the least – whether it is in cities or towns or villages. Here we leave the different types of entertainment programs telecast on different channels, and consider only the News Channels. What is the overall environment of the screen? One or two news-reader(s), three-to-four correspondents, on-to-two anchor(s), quickly changing locations and scenes, written and unrelated information and news scrolling at the bottom of the screen, micro-information of changing weather conditions and temperature in one of the corners, and with all these different advertisements of the sponsors from time to time (almost frequently)! Some news channels go even further to show more items on the same screen!
Whether you want it or not, your attention on any one topic or information does not remain focused. You try to see, listen and understand a specific news/information when all of a sudden your eyes are tempted to look somewhere else on the screen to see completely unrelated news/information, and your brain, in order that this unrelated news/information does not leave the screen before you grasp it (science it is scrolling/changing), starts working at a fast pace. In this situation, your mind doesn’t even know that your attention has shifted, and at last when you recognize this and refocus your attention on the original subject/topic, it’s too late and you have missed a lot!!
Here I think it important to dispel a misconception about an aspect of the ability of human brain – ‘Multitasking’. It’s a process by which a number of tasks of varying complexity can be performed with utmost accuracy at the same moment (instantaneously). Such a function can be performed by a computer. Many people entertain a myth that human brain can also ‘Multitask’! Brains-scientists have proved that a living brain can perform one and only one task at a time. If, somehow human brain is subjected to more than one task at the same time, the quality of its performance deteriorates and the output is either slowed down considerably or is erroneous.
Now, keeping in mind these facts about the human brain and mind, let’s think how are the technological means together affecting (or spoiling?) the delicate and immature mind and brain of our children and youth. It is OK to say that all such facilities help the brain to increase its working/attention-shifting speed, but it also leads to developing a kind of habit – that is that the mind doesn’t stay focused on a subject/topic for even 5-10 minutes!! It is OK for understanding simple concepts, but as far as grasping the basic and underlying principles and making out meaning relevant to be applied in life (and that is the ultimate purpose of all education, after all) is concerned, such a mind is surely incapable.
WHAT TO DO, THEN?
All the above facts about the brain are appropriate and relevant in themselves. But the question that naturally arises is – does the solution lie in banning the use of information technology and bringing the technological growth to a standstill? Or, should we completely stop all kinds of experimentations going on in the field of Information Technology?
In my opinion, it is impossible and improper, too. Let’s understand this in the following way –
The discovery of Atomic Energy brought with it both its constructive as well as destructive dimensions. The constructive dimension shows its utility as a protection of man and all life, and an infinite source of energy; at the same time, its destructive dimension has a devastating example for the whole of humanity and all life on earth – the Atomic Bomb! It can be argued with solid examples that since the Atomic Bomb can become a cause of complete desolation and destruction of live on earth, so all research and present and prospective experimentations on Atomic Energy should be banned. Would it be ‘right’ to do so? Well, two mutually opposing views would emerge – one in favour of it, and the other against it! But, the very fact, that ever since its first destructive use on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no country has dared, or still dares to think about using it as a weapon of destruction and that numerous experimentations on the Atomic Energy have been done till date and lot more would be done in future, shows us the way. What is required for us is to understand that in spite of its destructive dimensions, we must find out that way which multiplies its constructive dimensions in human and all life on earth.
In the same way, it is important for us to understand that in whatever way the use of information technology and its varied experimentations are affecting the human brain (especially the children and the youth), we – especially the teachers, educators and the like, have to learn those new dimensions of study and experimentations in the field of education which may have positive impact on our present and future generations. Also, it should be the focus that ultimately the attentive power, the grasping power, as well as the energy of their brain and mind of these delicate minds increase gradually with time.
This is a great challenge and we must accept it. It is the demand of our times, too.