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Are teenage brains tarnished by technology?

Are teenage brains tarnished by technology?

Are teenage brains tarnished by technology?

Did you know the average person consumes enough media and data to fill nine DVDs every single day? Information overload is rife. And we’re not just passively consuming it, researchers estimate we have to make around 35,000 decisions a day. Even for the most decisive people out there, that’s a lot.

The volume of content we’re trying to absorb has started to be researched by academics, and unsurprisingly, there are consequences. 

Multitasking is a myth

Double screening, or even triple screening has become quite the norm. Think about how many times you browse online shopping whilst watching TV, and maybe even reply to a couple of emails at the same time. 

It may seem like we can pay attention to a whole host of things at once, but what if it’s all an illusion? Neuroscientist Earl Miller argues: “When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly,” he says. 

We might think we’re taking in more information, but in reality, we’re not focusing on anything at all. 

Instead of taking in more information, we are failing to properly focus on anything at all.

This can be dangerous, and a recent study getting pilots to focus on multiple tasks at once failed to notice a crisis warning alarm during a flight stimulation. 

Disrupted attention means disrupted mental health

High levels of decision-making and too much information is of course overwhelming. But it can also disrupt our mental health. 

A notification on your phone can make your functional IQ drop by 10 points, so it really has an impact on the day-to-day functioning of our brains. 

Multitasking even produces a stress hormone called cortisol. Adrenaline is the hormone you might get when running a race, or going on stage, but you can also feel it when you’re anxious, as it’s known as the fight or flight hormone. Multitasking can also stimulate the production of this, therefore impacting both mental health and physcial health. 

Switch off to switch back on? 

Technology can also help reduce some of the overload our brains have to endure. From calendars to remembering phone numbers, and sometimes it can really help rather than hinder our mental health. 

Yet researched methods of wellbeing tend to focus on basking in nature, exercise and spending quality time with loved ones, all of which suggest a move away from the screen. 

Discover more about whether endless choice is ruining us from this article from our partner The Day.