(Originally posted 7/4/13 on my own blog.) In the last few days, I’ve been reading about some interesting research coming out of the Balance Brain Centre in Seoul, Korea. They have identified something called digital dementia, which a recent study was shown to affect some smartphone users and cause them to exhibit symptoms similar to those seen in other forms of dementia.
Smartphones have already been blamed for many ills. These include addictions, cancer, and a decline in face-to-face social interaction. These problems only increase as society’s dependence on technology grows with each passing year.
According to Dr. Byun Gi-Won, persons who use smartphones rely heavily on the left side of the brain. The left side of our brain governs language, reasoning, and logic. The right side, on the other hand, is responsible for creativity, concentration, and emotion. This lop-sided use of the brain, so to speak, can result in a significant imbalance that leads to memory problems (particularly for details, such as telephone numbers), shortened attention spans, and emotional flattening. The reduction in social interaction can lead to problems initiating or carrying on a conversation, or forming friendships.
It has been estimated that close to 20 percent of smartphone users are between the ages of 10 and 19. Because the brain is not fully developed during this period, this places youngsters at a significant risk for negative effects which can become permanent and influence their academic, social, and emotional growth. As many as 15 percent of this group is at serious risk of developing digital dementia.
Some experts have classified digital dementia as a form of early onset of a more lasting and serious form of the disorder. However, a lot more research needs to be done before we can be sure about the long-term effects of this new condition. It is recommended, however, that smartphone users consider the possible risks that can accompany a dependence on these devices until more is known about them.
Digital dementia has become so prevalent in South Korea that a number of clinics have been established to deal with the problem. Experts have already called for internet addiction to be classified as a mental disorder; the emergence of this condition only intensifies the outcry for moderation of smartphone use.