December 17, 2020

What is the Internet Do to a Kid’s Brain?

The truth is, we will be learning about what the long term impacts the internet has on the developing brain for a long time.  But we already know a few things about how the use of the internet impacts well-being and socialization.  We know that for adults as well as children, the internet is just as much a tool as it is a hazard.  As much as it can be a window to a new world, it can be an opening for predators and misinformation.  

Pressures of Perfectionism. 

Social media is about crafting an image.  Lots of teens and young adults will have multiple social media accounts attempting to portray their personality, lifestyle and sense of self in different ways.  While this is in many ways the same way their parents would try different clothes and friend groups growing up, an important difference is how impersonal and inauthentic it is.  When developing a sense of self, it is important to base how you feel about your choices, interactions, appearance, etc. on an actual human experience instead of by the number of “likes” you receive.  When someone looks to social media to decide who or what they are, they end up living to get attention or approval from others and don’t get the opportunity to feel sincere acceptance and understanding.

Not to mention the impact of cancel culture!  Cancel culture is breeding and idea for the necessity of perfection in order to be accepted.  I’m in no way suggesting that we should allow people to “experiment” with racism and homophobia but teens and young adults have started living in fear of sharing their point of view or speaking up when they do not agree with what they believe to be mainstream belief because they have seen so many people be eviscerated online.  

Being a faker

All of this encourages kids as well as adults to not be their authentic selves.  We don’t share our actual days on social media!  We share what we want others to see, the GOOD days or moments.  We often also don’t share what we actually think for fear of being rejected, shut down or attacked.  I almost laughed out loud the other day when I saw a Facebook ad about connecting people. Connecting people is certainly possible on social media but for the most part, social media has become a rabbit hole of comparison to fall down and a place where people who want to sell something can reach an almost endless audience.  

HUH?  What was that?  Why did I walk in here?

Our brains were not created for the amount of stimulation we get with all of our devices.  Even when we sleep, our brains are taking in stimulation, our conscious mind cannot possibly notice and register all stimulation at all times so it has to prioritize the stimuli and what gets noticed or registered consciously.  When we have multiple screens going at all times, we are in a perpetual state of distraction.  

Sometimes even one screen is too much.  Yesterday while I was on the phone with a family member, I received several text messages and updates/banners alerting me to other things that wanted my attention, all while using only one device.  Even if you manage to not read the messages or check the alerts it steals you attention away.  

Each time you get a notification or banner or update, you get a small hit of dopamine and your brain craves more and more because they are built to seek pleasure.  So, before we know it we are totally addicted to our little hits of dopamine.  Kids are certainly not immune to benefits of these little hits and they don’t have the ability to focus that adults do so they impacted even more.  

Reduced memory capability 

In a perpetual state of distraction, you brain is unable to consolidate memory.  Which basically means it prohibits learning and long-term memory.    When you are constantly distracted, there is nearly impossible to convert short-term memory to long-term memory.  

In order to create long-term memory and learning kids and adults need quiet undistracted, unstimulated time.  Yes, that includes a show they have already seen before.  

Doesn’t teach you to think for yourself

Nothing about the internet teaches you the skill for learning for yourself.  You can beautifully learn about other parts of the world or lives you haven’t encountered but taking it all in and deciding what it means to you and how you wish to live in the world comes from quiet (no screen) reflection.  

Kids can’t learn to think for themselves via a screen and they don’t know what we do not teach them.  If you are struggling with screen free time, then it is safe to assume your kids are too and you can be confident that it will impact the way the learn, interact with others and see themselves. 

As always, I’m here.  If you are ready to work on having the life you want, call me and let’s get started!

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