Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 4th 2015 Contents B2
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, May 4, 2015
• From Page B1
tiny branching networks, she said. By increasing its
branches, the brain is increasing its surface area,
making it easier for brain cells to communicate with
other brain cells, she said.
Greenfield spoke of the temporal linearity of people s
life stories, and posited that your identity is in effect
the result of the connections you make in your brain
cells as a result of your own unique experiences.
Dangers of too much cyberspace
She said the rich, multifaceted online world was
becoming a parallel, even escapist way of living which
has the potential to affect children negatively---espe-
cially children who spend too much time online
instead of taking the time to play, make different
kinds of relationships with real people, and exercise
their imaginations through diverse activities, including
Real communication in three dimensions is better
than screen or two-dimensional communication, she
said, because words form only ten per cent of any
communication. The rest is communicated through
eye contact, body language, voice (tone, rate and vol-
ume), pheromones, and physical contact---none of
which is available on Facebook, she said.
And if you don t rehearse these aspects of com-
munication, you won t get good at them, she said.
She then cited a link between poor communication
skills and autistic-like behavior in youth---who in
today s world, have a much higher exposure to the
internet. She also cited a study where a group of
pre-teens had all their digital devices taken away for
five days, were taken to an outdoor camp, and saw
an improvement in their communication skills as a
result. The brain will incessantly adapt, she said.
She made the point that sometimes, when little
children make up their own games---even with an
old cardboard box---these games are much better
than passive screen games, because in the real games,
they are exercising their imaginations, and trying on
Children must learn to think
She said that a whole middle part of development
is being skipped---the part that involves learning to
actually think---when we simply park children in front
Violence in video games can be especially bad,
encouraging excessive levels of the chemical dopamine,
she said. High dopamine dampens down activity in
the pre-frontal cortex, she said. When this part of
the brain under-functions, we react emotionally
rather than cognitively, she said, going for sensation
rather than thought. In video games, we often don t
think, we just react. And the thrill of the moment
trumps the consequences of our actions, she said.
She noted that the prefrontal cortexes of teenage
brains are still developing.
On use of social media, she commented that down-
loading every second of consciousness onto Twitter
or Facebook is not necessarily a good thing, as this
form of self-presentation can be narcissistic and
leaves us too vulnerable to others opinions. She sug-
gested that it can also make for rather shallow nego-
tiations of identity.
Facts are not knowledge
Having access to lots of facts via the internet is
not the same as having knowledge, she said, because
knowledge involves understanding, and the ability
to harness abstract concepts and relate various isolated
facts to make useful connections of significance.
She even quoted Eric Schmidt, the chairman of
Google, who apparently once said that sitting down
and reading a book is the best way to develop under-
standing and imagination (rather than, say, surfing
Technology, she suggested, should provoke indi-
vidual fulfilment rather than be a substitute for it.
And in a short question and answer session after
her talk, she had this simple advice for parents, to
counteract all those video games and electronic
screens children are exposed to these days: eat together
more often as a family; encourage your children to
go outside and play; and read often to your children.
Mind Change, the
book written by
published in 2014
by Random House.
B G B
( // /)
WHO IS SUSAN GREENFIELD?
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