Digital dementia: how to protect your child from the XXI century epidemic?

Digital dementia: how to protect your child from the XXI century epidemic?

A tricky question to start.

What was the article that you read yesterday? A week ago? Three months ago? The last year?

Do you remember its content well? Can you easily retell it?

It could be a complicated task, couldn’t it?

We’ve entered the era of informational overabundance. Mass media and social networks, publishing houses, film and game industries conduct fierce wars for our attention. More than 90% of information that we have today has been generated over last 3 years. More than 2.6 quadrillion bytes of information are being produced every day.

In these circumstances our brain has to protect itself, so it trains to weed out the seeds of useful information and forget all the unhelpful stuff quickly. But it’s getting used to throwing the baby out with the bath water, so it could be hard to recall the needed facts.

If you read this article, you’re probably more than 3 years old, so your brain is completely formed.

We have an advantage of growing in non-internet era. Our thinking is structured, we know how to prioritize sources of information, we’re able to recognize fake news, and our memory is in good condition (at least it used to be before the tricks of Timothy Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau).

But what about our kids?

The so-called Flynn effect assumes that in 1930-1980’s our IQ was rising at a rate of about 3 points per decade. But the latest research of the Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research in Norway shows that the progress stopped 40 years ago. Kids who were born in the mid-1970s were the last generation to benefit from increasing IQ; intellectual capacities have been lamentably reducing ever since.


Source:Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,
www.pnas.org/content/115/26/6674/tab-figures-data

Scientists all over the world are raising the alarm: a new form of inequality is rapidly growing. And that is the intellectual inequality: those who use the possibilities of digital era tend to become smarter, others can’t resist entertaining temptations and get more or less mindless.

Digital curse

The baby is born with the maximum number of brain cells, but they tend to die over the time if they aren’t used properly. The brain (as well as muscles) needs constant, complex and exhausting training. And the best simulator for brain will always be a book.

Reading books:

  • develops consistency of thinking;
  • stirs imagination;
  • strengthens memory;
  • creates hierarchical structures for coming information;
  • enriches vocabulary;
  • helps to elaborate own images;
  • fosters both logical and figurative perceptions;
  • decreases stress level.

But nowadays kids face temptations all round. Cartoons make them
passive consumers of flashing images, not active creators of their own worlds. Social networks rain down chaotic and unstructured information. Computer games cause addiction, which leads to cortical thickness and health problems. All these baits are made to entertain, while reading is a sort of work: who would deliberately prefer hard labor to having fun?

Yet this kind of work is a foundation stone for kid’s brighter future. The latest researches reveal that the brain is formed up to 25 years (surprise!), but the most important period is the first 5 years of childhood. A child’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s one: more than 700 neural pathways are established each second. Parents’ duty is to plant in it as much valuable seeds as possible: every day of kid’s life counts.

But parents are not heroes made of granite. A demon jumps on the left shoulder and whispers: ‘You’re so tired after work, you deserve to have rest. Do you really want to hide the smartphone and listen to all these screams and shouts for the rest of the evening? Give your kid what he wants and enjoy hours of silence. Come on, telly’s is craving for you’. Who will be able to stand as firm as a rock?

So it’s no wonder that today’s kids face the problems of:

  • late start of speaking;
  • concentration problems;
  • bad memory;
  • poor imagination for creating complex stories;
  • rejection of abstract thinking;
  • lack of interest in learning.

Doctors face a sophisticated dilemma: they have to lower standards for children development or diagnose cognitive problems for a growing number of kids. Some even declare that ADHD epidemic is progressively spreading. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is characterized by impulsivity, nervousness, poor planning skills, concentration problems and lack of frustration tolerance. Statistic data, collected by the National Survey of Children’s Health, show a steady increase in the diagnosis of ADHD, which has receded quite recently.



Estimated number of kids in the USA who ever had ADHD (in millions), Source: Data and Statistics About ADHD, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html

There is no consensus about causes of ADHD: some emphasize genetic, environmental and neurobiological factors, while others deny the existence of such a disorder. What is truly unquestioned is that spending too much time on computer games causes problems similar to ADHD symptoms. “Adolescents who play more than one hour of console or Internet video games may have more or more intense symptoms of ADHD or inattention than those who do not”, claim Dr Philip A Chan and Professor Terry Rabinowitz. So, if parents set no limits for using a smartphone or a computer, they expose their child to the risk of ‘digital dimentia’.

So, how to protect and develop your kid’s intellect?

  1. Limit online activities.

“It is necessary to minimize the child’s communication with digital networks. You have to structure his daily schedule, leaving some time for cartoons or games, but limited. A child should know that after this type of leisure something else begins — and this is inevitable’’, doctor Andrey Kurpatov, a famous Russian science popularizer, advices.



Doctor Andrey Kurpatov

2. Create motivation to read.

Inner motivation works better than external control, as the forbidden fruit is the sweetest. Offer some benefits or presents for reading a certain number of pages. Use educational apps that make studying funny. For example, in Nicola app a child chooses a pet – it could be a dragon, a little monster or a unicorn. The more a kid reads, the faster his friend grows. The app allows parents to set balance: a child has to read a given time period, then he is free to play. So a kid learns that a game is something that should be deserved, and reading is a sort of work that is followed by pleasure. That’s how reading habit is formed, and a child sees the whole process as his free choice. But no less important that after exceeding time limits, Nicola blocks all undesirable games and apps.

3. Interact with your child.

Despite what anyone may say, time with parents is the most enjoyable time for any kid. This doesn’t imply the moments when you mindlessly stare at your phone screen and blindly scroll the feed. Outdoor activities, board games, home family theatres, visits to amusement parks will definitely pull a child from favourite tablets and phones. Just make a little effort, and you’ll find an activity that would be interesting for both parties, whether it is fishing or writing fairy tales together.

4. Read yourself.

Oh yes, it’s a piece of cake, but the heaviest one. Children take lessons from adults, and a parent who spends all spare time behind the computer or TV wouldn’t be taken seriously in his attempts to force his kid to read. Have you ever tried reading the same book with your child? Reading aloud before going to bed is not always the option, while separate reading followed by discussion would fit better in your schedules. Don’t be terrified: children’s literature could be relaxing after work, it also creates nostalgic effect of traveling into the past. The most interesting part comes when you discuss it with the kid; we bet that child’s perception of the book will surprise you and reveal some his personality traits that would be new for you. Such a pastime helps to strengthen bonds between a parent and a kid and to understand each other better.

Read, learn, develop each other: exploring the world with your child is so fascinating!

Download Nicola app right now, make sure your child will become a smart and succesfull person.