by Charles Hymas, telegraph.co.uk, 6 August 2018
|Children's use of social media is affecting their|
social skills, according to Baroness Susan Greenfield.
Baroness Susan Greenfield, a senior research fellow at Oxford University and former director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, said she was concerned children were losing their ability to think for themselves, empathise and communicate with each other.
Instead, they were being bombarded with instant gratification through social media and gaming which meant that like three-year-olds they would need “something every moment to distract them so they can’t have their own inner narrative, their own inner thought process.”
“What I predict is that people are going to be like three-year-olds: emotional, risk-taking, poor social skills, weak self-identity and short attention spans,” said Baroness Greenfield, who was one of the first academics to warn four years ago that social media and video gaming were re-wiring children’s brains.
She cited as evidence a recent study by Harvard and Princeton universities which found students preferred to give themselves an electric shock rather than face 10 minutes alone simply thinking.
“There’s a much deeper issue than I wrote about in 2014 in that people are now needing constant stimulation from their environment every single moment as suggested by that [Harvard] result. They’re no longer able to go into their own mind, think laterally and have their own thoughts.”
Instead, she said children should do activities with a beginning, middle and an end such as reading books, playing sport or gardening where plant-growing could not be rushed rather than “multi-tasking where everything happens all at once and you can go backward and forward in time in games.”
“Give them a box to play with rather than an X-box so they can use their imagination. If you watch a child who is reading stories, you can see it gives them a better attention span,” added Baroness Greenfield, who was professor of synaptic pharmacology at Oxford University.
“I have started to look at things they don’t do - that is promoting physical exercise, eating together and above all telling stories.”
Her book, Mind Change, four years ago warned that children’s brains were being re-wired by their engagement with new technology.
The result was that they were likely to become more narcissistic with lower self-esteem and higher depression rates as communication through social media replaced face-to-face conversations. “I do feel vindicated. I wished I had not been,” she said.
She backed regulation to force the social media and gaming firms to do more to protect children from online harms, echoing The Daily Telegraph’s campaign for a statutory duty of care to be imposed on the companies.
She said the firms should be made to “fess up” to the addictive designs and techniques they used to keep people online. “If people were aware of how they were being manipulated, they would rebel against it,” she said.
“I want parents to be so aware of the [risks of the technology] that they intervene to stop their children doing it, like with smoking.”
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