LETTER: I posit that early introduction and unrestrained use of gadgets involving high-speed, highly interactive mediums of human interface and high levels of visual and audio stimuli could contribute to a powerful “re-wiring” of human growth and development, both mentally and physiologically.
The magnitude of impact depends on age of exposure, frequency, duration and type of content being accessed. Pure recreational use is likely to be the most potent.
Is it strange then that children who are exposed to high levels of visual and audio stimulation early on in their growth find it difficult to focus in school? Or just focusing on anything, for that matter?
Researchers have indicated a strong relationship between excessive screen time (signs of digital technology addiction) and psychiatric disorders such as Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder.
Their minds have been trained to operate at such a high level of stimulation that real life appears too dull. In all these cases, technology becomes a limiting prerequisite, instead of an enabler for the discovery and utilisation of innate passion and talent.
The apparent “addiction” may not be easily recognised as society often associates it with substance abuse, but the habitual impact can be just as real. The psychological “re-wiring” may be attributed to an overstimulated dopamine pathway of the brain, combined with an under-stimulation of other parts.
Dopamine is a pleasure chemical, which is released in the brain when we eat sweet things, look at someone that we like or experience the destructive high from cocaine. Therefore, gadget-induced dopamine “rush” could be mimicking these reward pathways.
In short, dopamine stimulation can reinforce our behaviour. In this case, it develops a bad habit that exhibits itself as the need to gratify an immediate urge for more stimulation, similar to how drugs induce addiction.
Furthermore, life is more than just mediums of interaction and certainly not just in education. Even with digital transformation fully implemented in the education system, the very nature of high-speed interaction with gadgets would do little to develop a generation that is resilient and patient.
A simple search is completed in milliseconds and is boosted by predictive search and artificial intelligence (AI). Mere finger swipes get you to move from one webspace to another in a lagless and smooth fashion.
Research is under way to integrate our minds with technology so that we don’t even need to lift a finger.
The ever-increasing processor and Internet speeds exponentially boost this effect further.
With proper use, these are great for productivity, but a premature and unregulated exposure, especially for entertainment, may undermine virtues such as hard work, patience and delayed gratification.
Health and science writer Lauren Vinopal says screen time induces dopamine release that weakens the children’s ability to control their impulses. It is not surprising with speedy and responsive interaction and super-fast content.
Instant sources of dopamine boost means on-demand instant gratification.
As dopamine also influences many parts of human behaviour and physical functions, including learning, motivation, heart rate, kidney function, mood, attention, sleep and pain processing, the over-rewarded brains of underdeveloped minds, which have operated with mostly high-speed interactions, may find learning, information processing, emotional regulation, social interaction, overcoming challenges, empathising with others or simply having to wait in a queue very difficult.
Psychologist Doreen Dodgen-Magee explains this perfectly: “Unless we are intentionally creating opportunities for focus, for delay of gratification, and for boredom, the portions of the brain that regulate these functions have the potential to show less robust, and possibly even diminished function.”
EMIR Research, Kuala Lumpur
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times
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