Friday, February 27, 2009

The Internet and the Brain

Partial map of the Internet based on the Janua...Image via Wikipedia

This week, an article in the Daily Mail featured Lady Susan Greenfield telling us that the Internet is not good for us. Good grief. Ars Technica, among others, point out that neither the article nor Greenfield point to any real research supporting her claims. If the Internet is making us stupid, then who are these people who recognize a lack of data to support claims?

There has been some research on this topic, which has been inconclusive. The concern is that kids/teenagers who are online or in front of screens too much and not interacting with people face-to-face might be losing valuable social skills. They might, for example, be losing the ability to read facial expressions and body language, both of which help people to communicate effectively. Fair enough. But that's not the Internet's fault. That's a result of the kid not being encouraged to balance their screen time with other activities. I'm loath to completely blame parents here, but obviously, that's one place to look. On the other hand, the research shows that older people can benefit from being online by creating new neural pathways, thus learning new things.

The Daily Mail article and Greenfield never actually say that the Internet is bad, but that it can change or may change the way we think. I've seen so many articles about various technologies that always assume change is bad. Change is neutral. It's what we do with it that's good or bad.
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