Are smart gadgets actually making us dumb?

Not so long ago there was a time I could remember all my friends phone numbers…I only remember a handful now. I never really forgot things, I always remembered engagements I had. I never needed to put reminders on my phone for things or have many to do lists (I just knew I’d have x number of things I had to do).

Yesterday I was having a conversation with my cousin, she’d been looking into studying music therapy to help children with autism and other learning disabilities. She’d gone online (as we do nowadays with the world at our fingertips) and had found lots of different videos on youtube. Some of them were amazing (I’ll post links below). Anyway while she was doing her research she took a test online to see if she was dyslexic. She came to me later that evening and said “Nats, I did a test online and I’m dyslexic.” So I asked her what sort of questions they asked and she said things like “Do you go between one activity and another, not being able to concentrate for long periods of time? Do you have trouble remembering things? Were you a late talker?, etc”. As she was telling me these things I thought to myself that is so many of us these days. And I think the culprit to blame is our dependence on smart gadgets. We’ll be reading a book when suddenly we feel the need to check our facebook, whatsapp a friend, play another level of candy crush and the list goes on.

But relying on our smart gadgets comes at a cost. We reduce the need to routinely use the parts of our brain used to identify and deal with cognitive demands. Our brains operate best when frequently used. So while convenience is nice, failing to engage part of our brain that controls our congnitive skills, impairs other parts that need it. For example our ability to concentrate, regulate our thoughts and emotions and help in our decision making.

Let me say two things though. Dyslexia is serious and if you think your child may be showing symptoms then it is always worth getting it checked out because with the right help at school they can go on to achieve anything. You can check out more here. And secondly, I think modern technology is amazing. With Whatsapp, Tango and Skype we never feel so far away from our families and friends. With facebook we know whats happening in our friends lives and we’re often reconnected to friends we haven’t seen in years.

But I think it is important for us to start relying on our selves more. Do some mental maths rather than use the calculator on our phone, remember something we need to do rather than put a reminder on our phone. Pick up our phones and make calls to people we love rather than message them.

S is almost 15 months and he is already a big fan of my ipad. This week a friend taught him how to unlock her iphone (thank god I don’t have an iphone!). Children at this age pick up so much and so quickly. While we can’t escape modern technology in the 21st century, I think it is important for us to place emphasis on our kids growing up the way we did. With books, pencils, real paint and actual face to face/voice to voice communication.


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