Does digital dementia exist, and should we be concerned?
When a top neuroscientist warns that the increasing influence of the Internet is causing ‘digital dementia’, it’s hard not to sit up and take notice. Digital dementia is defined as deterioration in cognitive abilities attributed to overuse of smartphones, gaming and the Internet.
Dr. Manfred Spitzer’s recently published book, ‘Digital Dementia’ warns about the dangers of allowing kids to spend too much time on laptops, mobile phones and other electronic devices. Dr Spitzer warns this habit is causing deficits in brain developments in young children and that these deficits are irreversible. He’s gone so far as to argue for digital media to be banned from German classrooms in order to stave off a wave of damaging ‘tech addiction’.
However, Dr Spitzer was not the first neuroscientist to use the term ‘digital dementia’. The term actually originated in South Korea, one of the most digitally connected nations in the world. Dr. Byun Gi-won from the Balance Brain Center in Seoul, was quoted in the Korea JoongAng Daily been quoted as saying that smartphone use could “in as many as 15 percent of cases lead to the early onset of dementia.”
But does digital dementia actually exist?
Making a claim that tech-obsessed South Korean teens are in danger of early onset dementia is a big one, and should be backed up by some serious peer reviewed study. Unfortunately, as David diSalvo from Forbes magazine found, no such study has ever been published. While South Korea, as one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, may have a problem with tech–addiction amongst its teens, to say that this is leading to early onset dementia is not a claim that can be backed up scientifically.
However, Dr Spitzer form Germany, who works in a clinical setting with tech-addicted teens, had this to say in an interview with ‘Talking Germany’, “I’ve seen young men in their late twenties…they’ve lost their job, their apartment, they’ve lost all of their friends, they play 18 hours of World of Warcraft a day…and you ask them do you have friends? Yes. Have you ever met them? No…Their lives are a complete ruin”.