I just sent this out to my volunteers at work. It has some pretty stark implications not only for younger and older generations and when, how and why they use technology, but also how younger and older generations relate to one-another. Caiti and I are reading Brave New World again (on an iFad, ironically enough)…In “Brave New World Revisited” Aldous Huxley expresses concern that “the world was becoming like Brave New World much faster than he originally thought.”
Digital Dementia Surging Among Young Electronics Users
(taken from the Digital Natives facebook page)
Basically, young people are gaining technological proficiency, but their overuse of information technology comes at the expense of memory loss, stunted emotional development, and inability to focus.
Wikipedia’s defines dementia as “a serious loss of global cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired person, beyond what might be expected from normal aging. It may be static, the result of a unique global brain injury, or progressive, resulting in long-term decline due to damage ordisease in the body. Although dementia is far more common in the geriatric population (about 5% of those over 65 are said to be involved), it can occur before the age of 65, in which case it is termed “early onset dementia”.“
The “digital dementia” in the news article may be a new form of “early onset dementia” that specifically impacts young people who grow up surrounded by — and dependent on — modern information technology (e.g., TVs, computers, video games, smart phones, etc) all the time. It speaks toward the need to limit young people’s exposure to information technology while their brains and bodies are still developing. This stands in direct contrast, for example, to how technology companies, educational researchers and media outlets such as US News and World Report advocate for more “technology in the classroom.” Are they encouraging the development of early onset dementia in young people?
Meanwhile, what does this all mean for older adults? ABC reports on a study that indicates use of information technology may be help prevent or delay dementia in older adults. The study concludes: “Older men who use computers have lower risk of receiving a diagnosis of dementia up to 8.5 years later. Randomised trials are required to determine if the observed associations are causal.”
My conclusions: Young people actually shouldn’t be using computers that much. Older people might benefit from computer use in a variety of ways, though. In addition to its cognitive benefits, it can help people who are isolated or immobilized retain important social contact with friends and family.