As technology is filtering down to younger and younger generations (I have a friend who gave his three-year-old niece his iPhone when he upgraded to the 3G. No joke.) there is a rise in the concern of its effects on the developing brain.
Being born in the late-1980s, I’m the first generation to literally grow up in a digital world. Somewhere in the depths of a scrapbook, there’s baby picture of me poking away at an IBM computer the size of mini-fridge. When I was 10-years-old, my parents gave me my first desktop Gateway. I filmed and digitally edited my 13th birthday party, and the same year I got my first cell phone – a silver Motorola flip phone the size of a brick. I don’t have veins, I have wires.
Question is: is the digital world helping the Internet generation utilize our brains, or are we just distracting it with multitasking overload?
There are times, I’ll admit, my digital savvy has been more distracting than productive. I’ve fiddled away hours clicking through Facebook statuses or played mindless hours of Guitar Hero until my thumb nearly cracks off.
Last week, my honors reading class at Florida Gulf Coast University discussed of Don Tapscott’s “Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World.” Our class of seven (plus one journalism professor to keep us on track) seemed to all agree that the baby boomers’ implications that NetGen-ers lack concentration, productivity and retain less information aren’t all true.
Tapscott wrote about interactive technology, and how regularly playing an action video game can change how the brain processes information.
John, an outspoken, bearded philosophy major can vouch for video games, using Halo as an example. “You notice your radar, how much ammo you have, where your teammates are, how much life you have left all while you’re having a conversation with your team on a headset,” he says. “We are able to instantly compartmentalize every aspect of the game.”
I guess it’s no surprise teenage boys lock themselves into their bedrooms for hours at a time, committing virtual massacres inside their TV screen: there’s a hell of a lot to process simultaneously.
Audrey, a soft spoken 21-year-old from Malaysia, takes multitasking to an entirely new realm. She says in order to concentrate, she listens to Chinese music (one of four languages she speaks) as she reads her textbooks that are written in English, writes her blog in English all while switching back and forth from Facebook.
She does admit the the United States’ reliance on technology has made her a little lazy since moving to the states to attend college. “I grew up in Malaysia, and we had to memorize a lot,” she says. “Here, we copy and paste. I think it has to do with culture.”
But why memorize when we carry around Google on our iPhones?
As much as my generation is reliant on our BlackBerrys to help us find the nearest coffee shop, I think it has to be more with efficiency than laziness. The world moves faster than ever, and there’s an increasing urgency for productivity. If Merriam-Webster says “google” is a legitimate verb, then Google I will.