A recent study suggests that the way we use our brains when we look for information on a computer screen or cell phone screen is eroding our hardwired neuronal ability to recognize facial expressions in others. Researchers call the way we use our brains to scan for information on a screen, CPA, or Continuous Partial Attention. That’s not a good thing because facial recognition is the basis for empathy for one another. When we see another person’s expression, neurons called “Mirror Neurons” fire and we have a sense of what another person is feeling. Mirror Neurons can help us retain our humanity.
The technology created to connect us on one level may be disconnecting us on another.
With headline news about teen violence, pregnancy rate, crime and suicide on the rise, one has to stop and wonder what’s going on with our teens. And it’s not just our teens. Educators say that they are seeing an enormous increase in children in kindergarten with less executive functioning than in previous years. That means the children have shorter attention spans, and less self-control among other things.
When Ford built the first car it was an amazing new way for people to travel faster and farther. But it wasn’t until the car had been around for years that people began to put rules about safety into place. I can’t help but wonder if we will one day have “text ed” for teens, much like drivers ed. At some point people realized people needed to be a certain age and trained to drive a car. It would serve our teens well to learn how to use technology respectfully. It would also do them well to have more face to face time.
Stats recently published claim one billion seconds a day are logged in on Facebook alone.
Our teens are digital natives. They have never known life without the technology that is new to most parents. We are still finding our way and understanding it’s impact on our world.
The teen brain already misreads facial expressions about 50% of the time because their brains haven’t fully matured. Teens make decisions with their limbic region of the brain. That’s the fight or flight area responsible for survival. Their prefrontal cortex, the CEO of the brain so to speak, doesn’t mature until the late twenties. Add that to the research suggesting that our technology use is eroding hardwired abilities to recognize expressions and it adds up to something we all need to pay attention to.
Parents can help their teens by engaging them in other activities besides texting, Youtube and other tech uses. Don’t let the computer or cell phone be your teens “babysitter.” Find ways to engage, play, laugh and be a healthy, happy family. Those things actually help the brain mature in an optimal way.