Neuroplasticity and Smart Phones (Psychiatric Times):
In medical school, I was taught that the brain is hardwired at birth. During the past 30 years, neuroscience has definitively shown that this is not the case at all. As our understanding of brain development advanced, it became clear that, during the first 3 years of life, neurons in the brain prolifically form synaptic connections to be prepared for many diverse functional tasks, most of which it will never encounter. From aged 3 years onward, the circuits frequently used strengthen their connections while those serving no function are pruned away. Hence the common phrase, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
… What does all this have to do with smart phones? As with any tool, behavior, activity, or technology, smart phones have the potential to be either a useful and highly constructive asset or a destructive and harmful diversion from life. After accruing 10,000 hours on a smart phone, our brain has certainly been impacted and rewired in a significant way. An unanswered question that causes me a great deal of curiosity and concern is: What is the impact on brain development during the first 25 years of life when a significant part of each day is spent looking into a smart phone and the resulting cognitive and emotional experiences? Just wondering…
Related special report:
Screen Media Activity in Youth: Friend or Fiend? (Psychiatric Times):
Spending time watching television, engrossed in a game on a tablet, glued to a gaming console, or messaging friends with a smartphone have become quintessential recreational activities of children and adolescents. Screen media activity (SMA) consumes about 40% to 60% of after-school time,2 and nearly 97% of US youth have at least 1 electronic item in their bedroom … A recent meta-analysis found that while overall SMA was not associated with academic performance, youth reporting more television viewing and gaming had poorer composite academic performance, whereas adolescents viewing more television had lower language and mathematics scores.
… Assessing the evolving landscape between SMA and mental health is becoming increasingly important. Taken together, a thoughtful assessment of SMA should be part of a mental assessment as much as any other aspect of social or developmental history. Only then can mental health practitioners make educated decisions about whether SMA is a friend, fiend, or both for their young patients.