Are social networks changing kids' brains?

An article in the online edition of The Guardian suggests that following social networks like Bebo, Facebook, and Twitter may be contributing to short attention spans and a lack of identity. Lady Greenfield, an Oxford professor of synaptic pharmacology, expressed concern that the constant flow of updates that characterize social networking sites might contribute to a shorter attention span and a need for instant gratification. She believed that children risk losing empathy by focusing on screen updates to the exclusion of reading novels that allow deeper character exploration. In addition, the "constant reassurance" that one is being listened to and that one's opinions matter might interfere with identity development. The problem here, I think, is that these networks are a relatively new phenomenon, and I'm not aware of any longitudinal studies yet.

We'll be talking next week to Dr. David Dutwin, a social science researcher and the author of "Unplug Your Kids: A parent's guide to raising happy, active, and well-adjusted children in the digital age." We'll be sure to ask about social networking!

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