Email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email, again. Sports pages, Blogs, Online Magazines, Video Games.
The internet – whether on a computer or smartphone – is one big distraction. But, are all these distractions negatively affecting us?
Any marketing student or director can tell you that internet users have short attention spans. Then there’s Twitter, which allows only 140 characters before forcing people to the next tweet, and articles with hyperlinks to other stories, related topics, or photos that can direct people away from the original source. Some researchers and psychologists are beginning to worry about the cumulative effect of this attraction-then-distraction nature of the internet. Is it making us “dumber”?
Where people once regularly read books and entire articles in newspapers, now no depth of thinking is required as people skim through headlines and mini-stories. Students are adept at using technology like the internet to gather information for a paper; however, citing numerous sources doesn’t necessarily mean they acquired a depth of understanding of the topic. The internet has led to a culture of skimming: we look at emails or articles for the bits that seem important with no time to deal with the rest. Is this a bad thing? Well, it could be.
Internet – Rewiring How Our Brains Work
Not only do brains continue to develop into our 20s, they have a use-it-or-lose-it aspect that continues throughout our lives. Using the net, with its infinite temptations, activates different parts of the brain than do deep thought and following one area of study. So, as habits change, so do people’s brains. This switch to more shallow thinking may mean people are losing the ability to stick with a single task. Also, computer-enabled “multitasking” isn’t exactly true. Science has shown the brain isn’t really all that good at multitasking. Put simply, a person can’t truly think about two things at once. What might this mean for young people? In a 5-year study of 100,000 students that ended in 2005 before social media really took off, researchers found a correlation between some decreasing test scores and the growing number of homes with computers and internet access.
The internet can be an escape – a form of entertainment – as much as it can be a useful tool. With all the growing research and numerous studies and observations about how technology is affecting people’s habits and health, people need to be aware what excessive computer use can cause.
While adults and children alike are susceptible to developing bad habits, today’s youth and future generations will only know a world with computers and the internet. Internet addiction is a modern issue, and as it could be that the internet is best used in moderation, teaching children boundaries early may help them avoid some of the risk associated with internet overuse.
Learning a New Way of Life with Wilderness Therapy
Wilderness therapy for troubled teens struggling with internet addiction gets them out in nature and away from the multiple sources that feed their addiction. The Pacific Quest wilderness program is more than about hiking and adventure. It is about getting back in tune with nature and with the inner self. Organic gardening and horticulture therapy have shown to reduce stress, improve concentration, and increase motivation. Creating planting schedules, prioritizing crop rotations, organizing a nursery, designing garden beds, tracking compost temperatures, and thinking of and experimenting new ways to increase efficiency require students to think analytically and develop problem solving skills. Beyond helping with emotional and mental issues associated with internet addiction, outdoor therapy helps troubled adolescents and young adults grow and gain skills that will serve them throughout their lives.