Teens Digitally Distracted, In Need Of Downtime

A New York Times feature on the digital habits of a Silicon Valley high school suggest that teens aren’t getting enough mental downtime to remember their homework.

A New York Times feature on the digital habits of Silicon Valley high school students offers insights on how the brain stores information.

A research study lead by Markus Dworak at German Sport University in 2007 found that playing video games led to lower sleep quality and a “significant decline” in test subjects’ ability to remember vocabulary words studied beforehand. Dworak suggests the emotional intensity of the gaming experience overrides the memory of previous study.

“When you look at vocabulary and look at huge stimulus after that, your brain has to decide which information to store,” he said. “Your brain might favor the emotionally stimulating information over the vocabulary.”

Dr. Michael Rich of Harvard Medical School adds that the brain needs an absence of stimuli to not only remember information, but understand.

Recent imaging studies of people have found that major cross sections of the brain become surprisingly active during downtime. These brain studies suggest to researchers that periods of rest are critical in allowing the brain to synthesize information, make connections between ideas and even develop the sense of self.

“Downtime is to the brain what sleep is to the body,” says Rich, “Kids are in a constant mode of stimulation. The headline is: bring back boredom.”

The New York Times: “Growing Up Digital”

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