Media-loaded brain ‘breaks’: Reality check

By Anne Collier

Sociality- or media-loaded, digitally enhanced intervals in lines, on the bus, at the gym may not actually be brain breaks after all, and in fact may be depriving us (and our kids) of the kind of down time we and our brains really need. Technology like smart phones, iPods, and Kindles “makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive,” the New York Times reports. “But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.” Good food for thought, ironically! But the headline – “Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime” – is misleading, if you really think about it. It’s actually, we, not the devices, who may be depriving ourselves and our kids of time for reflection and learning, depending on how we choose to employ those devices. Last spring I wrote about the breathers and reality checks our children need as they – like everybody else, but in the middle of the intensity of their adolescent development – negotiate today’s online+offline, 24/7 exposure to life’s big and little, local-to-international dramas but, for them, especially school-related social drama. Sure, life is changing amid the constant availability of all forms of media, including the media we’re producing ourselves, and this requires a certain level of acceptance so we can get on with figuring out how to deal with the media shift constructively and help our children do so too. But the very 24/7 accessibility of tools for staying “productive” or entertained calls for more critical thinking, not less, and how can we expect our kids to value reflection and independent thought if we don’t demonstrate for them that we do? Just a thought. 😉

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