Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Could your kid develop “digital dementia”?

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Greg Peck
Thursday, March 20, 2014

Americans are obsessed with digital gadgets, from smartphones to online games. That worries health experts, who fear the effects on developing brains.

That's according to a story by Mary Ann Roser of The Austin American-Statesman. She writes that a 2-year-old who nimbly uses an iPad to kill millions of video-game monsters might not be a genius but could be prone to problems with memory or thinking. It's a condition that neuroscientist and psychiatrist Manfred Spitzer calls “digital dementia.”

Spitzer authored a 2012 book about this phenomenon. Some think his alarms are overblown, but the American Academy of Pediatrics has concerns, too. In 2011, the academy urged no TV for kids younger than 2. The academy suggests electronic media can be linked to obesity, sleep problems, aggressive behavior and attention issues in school.

Do you know any kids who might be susceptible to such problems? I do. Many parents these days use TV and video games as cheap and ready baby-sitters. It's a way for the adults to get time to themselves and get breaks from that constant whining and complaints from kids that they're bored.

Heck, looking back, even in my childhood, long before video games and taped television were even ideas, my siblings and I spent hours in front of the “boob tube.” And I'm sure we spent much more time outdoors, playing games and socializing with neighborhood kids, than the average child does these days.

Spitzer says many kids don't memorize things today because they can get answers through Google. He says multitasking and digital clicking are distracting and contribute to attention problems and impaired learning. Roser writes that the academy suggests “screen-free zones” that include bedrooms and urges limiting screen time to two hours per day for kids of all ages.

How much screen time do your kids soak in per day?

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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