Letter to the Editor: brain development and screen time

Anonymous, guest writer

For an astonishing 9 hours a day, children ages 8-18 are hooked on technology.2 Ironically, this is not surprising for many of us, yet it should be. Adolescents are on their devices not only for social interactions but also for educational content, and the consequences of this are proving to be detrimental for brain development. Edina High School, which is no different than a majority of other educational institutions, contributes to the negative impacts of technology, more specifically, the amount of screen time students are exposed to every day. Through brain scans we are able to view the harmful effects of screen time on the brain. Contrary to past scientific theories stating the brain is mostly developed by age 5, it is now known that this process isn’t complete until a person is in their mid to late 20’s.1 With new, proven studies on brain patterns, it is critical to pay attention to the amount of time adolescentes spend on devices. Whether intentional or not, the massive quantities of time a device is needed by an individual at school and home is drastically increasing, therefore, negatively impacting several aspects of brain development, including cognitive aptitude, emotional behavior, and an individual’s ability to pay attention. The development for cognitive behavior starts with signals and communication in the brain. Comprehension, a cognitive function, is crucial throughout high school, and there is now a link connecting screen time to erratic cognitive behavior. According to Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain, by Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D, . “‘Spotty’ white matter translates into loss of communication within the brain, including connections to and from various lobes of the same hemisphere, links between the right and left hemispheres, and paths between higher (cognitive) and lower (emotional and survival) brain centers. White matter also connects networks from the brain to the body and vice versa. Interrupted connections may slow down signals, ‘short-circuit’ them, or cause them to be erratic (misfire).”3 With the loss of connections from different hemispheres and lobes, the number of children really understanding the content in high school is going to decrease as the amount of technology increases: an inverse relationship. One’s emotional life is just as important as one’s academic life. Without a state of well-being, your body will not physically let you learn. Mental illness is crucial to understanding the development of the brain, along with how this type of illness impacts the brain. Not only can trauma and past events impact your mental health, screen time can too. Also according to Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D, “A finding of particular concern was damage to an area known is the insula, which is involved in our capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others and our ability to integrate physical signals with emotion. Aside from the obvious link to violent behavior, these skills dictate the depth and quality of personal relationships.” Having empathy and understanding emotionally how you impact someone is a key lesson to learning and growing in high school.