NOTE: This is cross-posted with my Cognitive Science Blog.
Social networking websites are causing alarming changes in the brains of young users, an eminent scientist has warned.
Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo are said to shorten attention spans, encourage instant gratification and make young people more self-centred.
The claims from neuroscientist Susan Greenfield will make disturbing reading for the millions whose social lives depend on logging on to their favourite websites each day.
But they will strike a chord with parents and teachers who complain that many youngsters lack the ability to communicate or concentrate away from their screens.
As someone who teaches older adolescents (undergraduate college students), I often worry that the so-called Millenial Generation, a cohort of young people who have grown up immersed in digital entertainment and information-communication technology, seem to crave multi-modal stimulation in a way that older generations seemingly do not. For instance, I have observed older teens and young twentysomthings who constantly listen to music players while walking around campus or riding a bus to or from school… Listening to music while commuting can, of course, help pass the time, but to what degree does such behavior reflect a deep-seated desire (whether conscious or unconscious) to constantly be stimulated by something – music, text messages, or other communication/media?