As technology has crept into everyday life and across all activities, it has transformed the mediums by which we receive information and the kinds of information we consume. While we know there has been a fundamental shift within every age group and demographic in the U.S., research is only just beginning to show us what those changes in consumption mean for the human brain.
To date, research results and best practices have been mixed. Whether the use of devices is good or bad for our brains, one thing is for certain: they are literally changing the way we think and develop.
The average adult consumes five times more information every day than the average adult did 50 years ago. Further, we spend as much as 12 hours a day in front of TVs and computers—and that’s just while we’re at home! Because of all this, how we interact with one another and the world around us is evolving, with research suggesting our time on social media shows measurable, causal differences in our mental health.
This certainly extends to teens, as they are becoming more and more consumed with devices in every aspect of their lives. Given that our brains can process about 120 bits per second, filters that help us choose which information of pay attention to (think about how you can drive hundreds of miles without remembering any of the scenery along the roads) now must work overtime to determine what is and is not important to our survival.
Sadly, shifts in what is “important” to developing minds also change how the brain filters information that affects our well-being. For example, teens are expressing higher rates of depression and loneliness the more time they spend on their phones, despite claims by 81 percent of teens that phones make them “feel” more connected.