The experts are clear: Internet, television and video games have a negative influence on the mindset and cognitive abilities of young people


A number of recent articles warn us on the dangers posed by the new media


More and more psychologists and doctors are saying lately that the indiscriminate use of new media adversely affects the memory, logic and mindset of young people. For many researchers, this is a certain fact, based on statistics, and its consequences are alarming. Thus, according to critic Nicolas Carr, the search engine Google has the effect of inducing stupidity in young people, who tend to rely completely only on the information they easily find on the Internet, without critically analyze the data, but copying them outright. According to researcher Michel Desmurget, the TV has in its turn the effect of a “lobotomy” on those who get to spend a lot of time in front of it.

On the other side are the supporters of the opinion that the media is not leading to a diminished intellectual capacity, but rather, even to an amplified one. But their arguments, are however lame. ‘Everything bad is good for you’ is the sinister title of a book published by the journalist Steven Berlin Johnson, defending not only the Internet and the video games, but also the television series and even the so-called reality shows! According to him, the alleged growth of the intellectual factor IQ in the last century is due to media explosion. What he forgets to mention is that the SAT tests, which are used extensively in the U.S. to assess the ability of critical thinking, reading skills and expression of candidates to college in the U.S., thus being a measure of the degree of culture and intelligence of young people have not experienced any increase in recent years.

As always in this kind of problems, media owners are trying through their employees to ridicule the hazard of the problem of an indiscriminate use of media, ridiculing their critics and ironically branding them as “moralists”. On the media channels is ridiculed any attempt to present the situation in terms of good and evil , which allegedly lead to the adoption of “simplistic attitudes” and “raising false problems.” Precisely because nothing is a priori good or bad, it is natural to first determine the real impact of the media on the nervous system and on cognitive functions of human beings, and this requires impartial and serious experiments, not false studies with a propaganda effect made to order for the media potentates. Surely the internet , TV and media have come to have a major impact on all of us , almost as fluorinated or chlorinated water , distributed through the networks of our household, as monosodium glutamate which is used for “seasoning” our meals or the tea bags (which is counterfeit ) that we drink , for example , while reading these lines . The question is whether there is a profound, lengthy influence of media on us that can change radically and negatively our cognitive abilities.

TV, a danger to the public mental health

TV is, of course, at the center of negative charges on the impact of new media. In this respect, as the cinema, the TV set can be viewed as a highly hypnotic device that induces a state of diminished consciousness, making the spectator act only as a suggestible, irrational and hallucinating human being. The spectator or the viewer is often reduced to an automatic, mimetic, hypersensitive and irresponsible functioning. This concern aims in particular the power of suggestion of films on subjects so-called ‘precarious’ (children, adolescents, women, and the mentally ill persons).

M. Desmurget accused television in his book ‘TV lobotomy’, published recently (Max Milo, 2011). He claims that, in general, the TV screen is responsible for suppressing the intelligence of young people: for example, it was statistically established that a child who spends all day in front of the TV it only hears about 10,000 words, while another child, in contact directly with its physical environment, hears about 14,000. The TV is a public health hazard, essentially by encouraging obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and finally, by amplifying the tendency to violence. M. Desmurget is supported by numerous scientific studies that he indicates in the footnotes of his book, some of which are accessible on the Internet.

On the other hand, S. Berlin Johnson, one of the proponents of the benefits brought by the official U.S. media tries – as the evil suggestion betrays him even from the title of his book, Everything bad is good for you, Privé, 2009 – to manipulate the public opinion and to create a favorable opinion for the media, which is accused by others for brutifying the population. The television occupies an important place, especially its most entrenched production, the TV series.

S. Johnson simply repeatedly claims that the current TV series tend to increase the intellectual capacity of the viewers, childishly arguing that the films plot has become increasingly complex and labyrinthine. To this end, he compares a production scenario of the 80s, Dallas, with the one of the latest production, respectively 24 hours. The narrative structure of the first production is very simple: in general, each episode is independent of the others. It has only one storyline, and only a few aspects from the life and characteristics of the main characters are found in the following episodes. Johnson’s argument that the TV series are increasing the intelligence of the viewers is that a production such as 24 hours contains several storylines, some of which are a continuation of previous episodes. The truth is that this kind of intrigue can at most keep the viewers more addictive and more dependent. As about getting smart, let’s be serious! Instead, it was shown that watching TV indiscriminately produces multiple disastrous effects, listed by Virgiliu Gheorghe in his work, ‘The effects of television on the human mind’:

I. The effects of television on brain structure and function

The hypnotic effect

To understand how the video – audio media influences the human being, let’s first consider an essential element, namely, their hypnotic effect. Neurophysiologists have shown that the first effect of television, regardless of the show watched is the induction to the viewer of a semi- hypnotic state (predominantly alpha brainwaves). In 1971, Herbert Krugman , a noted researcher in the field of neuropsychology, analyzed the eye movements and electroencephalograms performed on a group of young subjects comparing their neurological activity during reading a book and while watching TV. Krugman found that for people who read a book, when it was turned on the TV, their brainwave frequency has changed considerably. In less than two minutes, subjects were predominantly in an alpha state – relaxed, passive, and unfocused. If we add that in this state, the human being is the most receptive to suggestions, we can better understand the power they have over us those who are producing TV programs. Not as television itself, but rather the predominantly negative messages that it transmits and evil suggestions that are inoculated and induced – through a lot of shows of a gregarious level, which propagates violence, destructive thinking, mercantile spirit, and perverse sexuality – are dangerous.

Dependence on TV and computer games

Correlated with the hypnotic effect, it appears an addictive behavior. American psychologists R. Kubey and M. Csikszentmihalyi have shown that television, video games and the Internet have the ability to generate a strong link of dependency, such as deprivation at a certain moment of such means of escaping from reality causing in those where the dependence is already installed the same symptoms as in the case of drugs.

Attention problems and hyperactivity

Regarding the structural development of the brain, neuropsychologists researchers have found that based on viewing time and the age when it starts, television and the computer can cause severe damages to the cortical development. Watching, as it is shown in these studies, inhibits the development of the prefrontal cortex, the left cerebral hemisphere and inter-hemispheric communication made ​​through the deck of the corpus callosum.

Conditions produced to the prefrontal cortex after excessive viewing of television shows are leading to what has been called the ADHD syndrome (“Attention Deficit with or without Hyperactivity Disorder “), i.e. weakening up to the pathological level of fundamental cognitive skills: focus, short-term memory, creative imagination, motivation to take action that requires effort.

Since they are small, children are accustomed to such experience that seduces their attention through shock and aggression and when they are faced with a reality (of various daily activities) which are not shocking in any way and can’t properly focus their attention. For example, at school they expect that their teacher’ presentation to capture their attention, having the shape of a spectacle with powerful effects. Such expectation not satisfied, their attention is de-activated and they start to think about something else. A symptom of this trend is that they do not find anything interesting of which requires effort, everything bores them.

While television generates a passive mental attitude, a delay in processing the information, in thinking, paradoxically watching TV is a major factor in inducing hyperactivity. Extreme agitation, the inability to “sit still”, excessive impulsiveness are conditions that occur after repeated viewing and without control of TV shows. Neuropsychologists have shown that proportionally with increasing the time dedicated to watching TV, their hyperactivity increases.

Learning disabilities

Learning disabilities – LD ( “Learning Disabilities” ) – a syndrome of which are suffering in many Western countries over 50% of the children – are determined largely by watching TV and playing computer games. With low motivation for learning new knowledge, unable to focus their attention and being constantly agitated because of an excessive hyperactivity, children respond generally with increased difficulty to school requirements. In addition to the symptomatically array of learning deficiencies seen in children today, watching TV is playing a crucial role in the imbalances that are induced to the functioning of the left cerebral hemisphere, the one that governs logical and analytical thinking, building syntax and discursivity. Therefore, difficulties in learning a language, in the development of reading ability and mastery of mathematical reasoning are determined mainly by the lack of normal development of the left hemisphere neural networks, systems whose activity is undermined during viewing TV shows.

Here’s how it looks in the symptomatologic picture seen in students, which over the years have accumulated too many hours in front of the TV screen:
1. Weakening the ability to listen, the inability to maintain attention, to understand and to remember a material presented orally;
2. Decreased ability to express in a coherent way, in speech and in writing, facts and ideas;
3. Decreased knowledge of vocabulary under the level of a student in the fourth grade;
4. Proliferation of verbal tics, of filler words that say nothing;
5. The inability to distinguish the differences between sounds that make up words and to perceive them in order of enunciation, which is reflected in the difficulty of pronouncing and spell long words;
6. Uncertain and confused understanding of a reading with a high degree of difficulty;
7. Difficulty to understand longer phrases, interspersed sentences and more complex grammar structures;
8. Difficulty to switch from the colloquial language to the one in written form.

Preschoolers now, compared with those of a few generations ago, have great difficulties in sitting still and listening to stories or short discussions. The problems that parents can observe now in the small viewers are hyperactivity, inattention and even irritability that characterize them. Problems in understanding and use of language are becoming more apparent, as the children advance from one grade to another, when, naturally, they are required a higher level of thinking and organizing ability, comprehension of more difficult books and an increased volume of writing. For the beginning of the secondary school, is increasingly concerning their low ability of concentration, low vocabulary knowledge, a diminished reading comprehension and lack of the ability to use the language to express ideas effectively and to express correctly in writing.

In high school, language difficulties continue to show in subtle issues, such as planning, sequencing and organizing ideas, classification, nuanced differentiation of concepts, understanding the cause and effect relationships, mathematical and scientific reasoning, understanding relationships between ideas while reading, directly and accurately expressing ideas, inner reflection, etc.
The decrease of communication between the two brain hemispheres made ​​through the deck of the corpus callosum, has as the main result, after several years of excessive watching, the weakening of the capacity of fast processing of the information and therefore of the intellectual performance.

II. The harmful effects of predominance on the TV screen of violence and of a degrading eroticism on the young people’ attitudes and behaviors

Regarding the influence of television to shape attitudes and behaviors through the activation of psychological mechanisms of imitation and imposing their nefarious designs in the individual and the collective mind, the studies highlight the effect of cultivation and conditioning of certain behaviors that are the unhealthiest. In several studies it was demonstrated that the predominance on the TV screen of the messages of violence and shameful eroticism, the imposition of a rebellious attitude and of the hypostasis of injudicious consumers have particularly strong effects of deformation of consciousness and behavior of young people.

Virtual violence breeds real violence

All sociological studies show that violence from the TV screens breeds violence in the real world.
1. People get to overestimate the presence of violence in the real world. The feeling of fear and insecurity in the face of imaginary danger seen as imminent is increased.
2. A permanent living with a sense of potential attacks, people not only become more stressed and irritable, but also they are prepared to violently respond in self-defense to a possible attack. By this, the violent behavior is creeping into the imagination of the individual, which feels entitled to use it to prevent the risk.
3. Individuals, in an increasingly percentage, perceive this violence as a legitimate and implicit component of social institutions. And if our world is a violent one, violence becomes the means and the necessity.
4. There is a desensitization of people to violence, pain and suffering; violence is increasingly becoming a desirable means for solving problems and imposing interests, to acquire desired pleasure or comfort.
5. Young people are becoming more impulsive and less able to control their violent impulses. From playing to obsession, the violent behavior becomes a constant attribute of the behavior of the young generations raised in front of the TV.

Adverse effects of perverse eroticism promoted on TV

The erotic message incites the imagination of children and contributes to a precocious sexually maturation. Research is showing the development of serious psychological and behavioral disorders of children and young people who have become accustomed to watching erotic TV shows.

1. Erotic materials are addictive in the sense that they induce a greater consumption trend.
2. It forms a false picture of what love is, what we can expect from each other and, above all, what we must give.
3. Age of first intercourse is decreasing.
4. Arises the habit of considering sex as a sport that can be practiced by anyone and with every opportunity, and to treat the other as an object to satisfy selfish pleasures.
5. Decreases the desire to start a family and have children.
6. For many it induces a feeling of frustration that they can’t meet the standards of beauty and seduction proposed by the TV screen, or who knows what erotic performance.
7. Increases the violence against women.
Rebellious and tyrannical behavior, mocking attitude and impertinent language promoted on TV contribute to the formation of selfish and individualistic young people, unable to socialize normally. The advertisement message repeated endlessly multiply desires, generates frustration and, therefore, constitutes a factor of extreme stress, harmful to the development of children’s personality.

Internet – Program or be programmed

Published in an issue of The Atlantic, Nicholas Carr’s article presents some of the criticisms of the Internet generally. In his opinion, the fact that it presents changing information as a perpetual flux, the Internet prevents “deep reading”, a fundamental condition for “deep thinking”. In other words, we are accustomed to focus less on texts and to approach them more on a superficial level.

Carr’s article is interesting from several points of view. First, far from being a refractory technophobe to any technological innovation, N. Carr is himself an active internet user and he says that he himself experienced this decrease of concentration due to the internet. Carr argues that, although the Internet promises through the alternative to printed information that it provides tremendous and unheard benefits, yet we have to become aware that “in the serene, open spaces, offered us by the sustained and without distraction reading of a book or other act of contemplation, we make our own associations freely, we can build our own inferences and analogies, we can feed our own ideas.”

The apparently friendly nature of the digital environment can deceive us. Douglas Rushkoff explains in his book “Program or be programmed. The Ten Commandments of the digital age “ (OR Books, 2010), that the media revolutions had and all have a delay. Today, the internet with its easy means of publishing could theoretically make us all some sort of writers, only now it is too late for most. For Rushkoff there is no doubt: to properly understand the contemporary world and subversive control activities of the society, we should be able to pass on the other side, to become “programmers”, because the alternative we have is very clear: “we either program the others, or we are programmed.” Until then, the ordinary users of the Internet, who do not have programmer’s skills and do not know to perform searches with much skill, can only be recipients of information that is accessible by reading popular sites and by using official search engines. We need a spiritual revolution for all people to recover the technological advance they have towards them those who hold the monopoly of money and technology on this planet. Only this way it will be balanced the internet equation.

Computer games cause harmful addictions in time

Although it is already increasingly obvious to everyone that computer games are addictive and all over the world it began to appear even specialists and clinics for deconditioning of these games , the media continues to misinform people by publishing articles that seek to demonstrate purposely how useful and good are the video games. For example, a study conducted at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York showed that surgeons who played video games for more than three hours per week were 27% faster in the operating room, committing 37 % fewer errors while performing laparoscopies and were able to suture 33 % faster than those who did not play video games at all. The findings of this study can’t be generalized, however, because it is based on false premises. Of all global players, most of them are young people in full personal development, not specialists that already have a structured personality, which can control their behavior and can even improve their manual ability and coordination of movements by playing. It is true that in the first place, that by observing the behavior of isolated minor population samples; we can only fall into the trap of confusion between correlation and causation. This is precisely the case with the study above, which used an irrelevant sample of the population from the whole group of video game players, interviewing only surgeons who were, moreover, from a single hospital.

Returning to reality, Beijing Times published the news that four million of young Chinese are suffering from the disease of addiction to the internet and “unhealthy” video games. Li Jianguo, vice president of a committee of the National People’s Congress, is quoted by saying that young people addicted to internet are totaling 10% of all internet users with the age under 18 years in China. On behalf of the Committee, Li Jianguo called for strict monitoring of the games with an illegal or inappropriate content. The term “unhealthy” meant, among other things, extreme violence and games with a sexual content.

A study conducted in 2005 by the Entertainment Software Association, found that “abuse of video games” was more common among MMORPG type of games players (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game). In a 2005 interview, Dr. Maressa Orzack of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, estimated that 40% of the 8.5 million players of the MMORPG type of game called World of Warcraft, are dependent, in accordance to a survey conducted by Nick Yee at the Daedalus Project.

One of the most famous British psychologists, Suzanne Greenfield warns in her turn on the correlation between the spread of the Internet and the increasing number of people with disorders from the autism spectrum. She mentions in this respect a recent article entitled Microstructure abnormalities in adolescents suffering from addictive disorders, published in PLoS One Journal. Meanwhile, she is referring to a recent article of the savant in the field of cognitive science, Daphne Bevelier, published in the high impact journal, Neuron. She demonstrates with specific data the increased incidence of violence, inability to concentrate and addictive attitudes related to the penetration of digital technology. Social networks and computer games make the young people, who are not yet versed in the experience of life, spend long hours in front of the fluorescent screen since their childhood, which hardly manage to make them become more communicative in the real world, but makes them increasingly closed off and prone to fall prey to all kinds of evil suggestions that are induced in this way.

According to Reuters, there is a new disease called Wiitis – a condition that occurs due to playing long hours of games simulating actual movements. The recommended remedy for this condition is abstaining for at least a period of one week from playing the game and taking Ibuprofen.
Specialists in mental disorders are saying that the internet world, like that one offered by computer games are virtual worlds, however they can become the cause of very addictive attitudes that destroy marriages and careers, and in extreme cases can even be a cause of death, as it happened with Lee Seung Seop, a South Korean man who died of exhaustion after continuously playing Starcraft for 50 hours.

Article taken from Yoga Camp Program Costineşti 2012, published by Shambala Publishing House and printed by Ganesha Publishing House

November 22, 2013



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