Did You Know?
Teens and youngsters in South Korea, one of the most digitally-wired nations in the world, are increasingly showing signs of digital dementia.
Dementia is an age-related disorder that typically affects the brain and leads to the deterioration of memory and concentration. The elderly who are diagnosed with dementia are forgetful and find it extremely difficult to recall the simplest of things, like phone numbers, contact information, and names of people. However, what would you say when these symptoms of cognitive decline are observed in teenagers and youngsters in their 20s and 30s.
Researchers have coined a new term for this early occurrence of dementia-digital dementia.
Digital dementia that strikes youngsters has been attributed to the excessive use of smartphones. Teens and youngsters who spend a lot of time sitting in front of computers and television sets and play a lot of digital games are increasingly showing signs of young-onset dementia. Excessive use of digital technology seems to be damaging the brain and causing temporary memory loss among youngsters.
The addiction of the young generation to smartphones is appearing to negatively affect the part of the brain that regulates memory, concentration, and attention span.
Is Digital Technology Damaging the Brain?
South Korea, after having witnessed an unprecedented growth in the field of digital technology, has reported an alarming rise in the number of digital dementia cases. Byun Gi-won, a doctor at the Balance Brain Center in Seoul, carried out a study to observe the impact of overusing smartphones on teenagers and concluded that the young population in South Korea is heavily dependent on digital devices, which is interfering with brain function and causing early symptoms of dementia. The doctor's claim does hold water and warrants further research as over 64% of teenagers in South Korea own a smartphone. With Samsung Electronics based in Seoul, South Korea, there is little wonder that one in five residents in this Asian country spends over seven hours daily on their smartphones. Also, South Korea has one of the highest Internet penetration figures in the world with over 83% of the population having easy access to the Web.
The right side of the brain supports cognitive function, such as memory, attention, thinking, emotions, and processing of ideas. On the other hand, the left hemisphere of the brain is linked to logic and reasoning. According to Byun Gi-won, due to overuse of digital devices, the left brain tends to get overworked, while the right brain is hardly utilized. This under utilization of specific regions of the brain over time can cause memory problems, leading to symptoms of digital dementia.
Byun Gi-won believes that the habit of frequently using smartphones disturbs the proper growth of the brain. With the advent of smartphones, it is no longer a necessity to remember things as information now can be easily stored in these devices and then accessed with a single touch. This abuse of technology seems to be hindering the development of the brain, causing increased incidents of forgetfulness in youngsters. The ability to recall information has reduced possibly due to the overuse of digital devices.
Another study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) asserts that the excessive use of texting services and long hours of computer viewing are factors responsible for causing poor memory and faltering focus.
Doctors in South Korea are concerned about the extent to which children and youngsters are getting addicted to smartphones and Xbox games. With digital technology encroaching deeper into our lives and being given more importance than it deserves, an increased number of cases of poor cognitive function in teenagers are being reported. Symptoms of cognitive decline that are usually observed in the elderly or in people who have suffered a grave head injury are getting diagnosed in teenagers these days, which is cause for much concern.
The book "Digital Dementia" written by Dr. Manfred Spitzer, a German neuroscientist, also emphasizes on the ill-effects of becoming too dependent on technology. The author mentions that heavy use of cell phones and laptops can have a negative influence on a child's brain development, and urges the authorities to intervene and forbid the usage of smartphones, notebooks, and other such tech tools in German classrooms.
On the whole, initial findings do suggest a possible link between overuse of digital technology and cognitive decline. In today's times, digital devices have become a necessity, but it's high time we limit their usage and focus more on leading a healthier lifestyle.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.