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ONLINE ADDICTIONSocial media reducing children to mentality of ‘three-year-olds’


ONLINE ADDICTION Social media reducing children to mentality of ‘three-year-olds’ By Charles Hymas SOCIAL media and video games are creating a generation of children with the mental and emotional immaturity of three-year-olds, one of Britain’s most eminent brain scientists has warned. Baroness 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 or 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.” Lady Greenfield, who was one of the first academics to warn four years ago that social media and video gaming were rewiring children’s brains, cited as evidence a recent study by Harvard and Princeton universities that 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. 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, which cannot be rushed, rather than “multitasking where everything happens all at once”. “I have started to look at things [games] don’t do – that is promoting physical exercise, eating together and above all telling stories,” added Lady Greenfield, who was professor of synaptic pharmacology. Her book, Mind Change, four years ago warned that children’s brains were being rewired 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 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. She said the firms should made to “fess up” to the addictive techniques they use. “If people were aware of how they were being manipulated, they would rebel against it,” she said. Swipe between articles 


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