Digital Dementia is making life harder than it should be, resulting in both mental and physical degradation – ranging from children to older adults.
Info from our computers, smartphones, tablets, and more, has been found to cause a breakdown in a human being’s cognitive abilities in a way that is traditionally associated with a head injury or psychiatric illness. The thousands of emails, instant messages, social media notifications and open browser tabs, all contribute to the phenomenon of Digital Dementia.
Digital Dementia: The Silent Tech Killer And Its Ongoing Cycle
We consume data, at a negative rate simply because we think, work and live amongst digital data. In contrast to the fifteenth century, we currently consume as much data in a single day as an average person from the 1400s would have in an entire lifetime.
This dramatic information overload has led to what leading German neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer calls Digital Dementia — essentially, the overloading of our minds by a 24/7, 365 day a year internet connection.
Digital dementia arising from technological overkill can lead to the deterioration of brain function like short-term memory.
In addition to other issues like the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Memory, language skills, visual perception, problem-solving, self-management, and the ability to focus and pay attention also suffers.
This is what you can do to stop the cycle of digital dementia:
Cut technology from time to time
A life without overusing technology today seems impossible but you can avoid digital dementia. Don’t let the phone be the first thing you see or do in the morning. And don’t use it when having lunch or dinner. That should be a rule for everyone. Connect with your family, friends, whoever you have a meal with, don’t distance.
Do outdoor activities. Go out and enjoy the sun. Exercise. Join a club.
Simply try to spend some time offline. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish and you’ll start to get creative with ways to keep yourself entertained.
Let exercises become your daily routine
By doing physical activity, you are improving your cognitive functions and your brain’s sharpness. It’s a recommendation for adults and kids.
Tip from Lifemark: “Stretch your arms above your head and tip your head back. Lay on your stomach and perform a few back extensions. Make a point of doing 5-10 reps a few times per day. We instinctively do this when we wake up because it actually stimulates the nervous system. This will counteract our constant forward, flexed posture.”
If you use the computer all day at work, you should try to take regular breaks to get up and move around. Walking will help your brain to rest a little.
It is important to maintain a good posture while spending time on the computer, especially when using them all day. A bent posture can potentially lead to a cerebral dysfunction in the long run which restricts the blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain and contributes to the symptoms of digital dementia.
Read a book
Reading a book rather than going to Facebook to take a break improves memory retention.
Turn radiations off
Don’t forget to shut down your WiFi modem and router before sleeping. You will probably not do this every night, but if you don’t want the radiation to continue reaching you when you’re not even using the device, you should!
Stop getting distracted by the internet which was made to be the most distracting thing in the world. Handle your online time more effectively and with a specific objective in mind!
The Story Of Digital Dementia:
- Digital Dementia was introduced by a German neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer. He adapted the term from certain South Korean researchers who first observed this issue:
- “Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. These functions include memory, language skills, visual perception, problem-solving, self-management, and the ability to focus and pay attention.”
- As the word dementia is usually a form of illness observed in older people, it is shocking to think it is more and more noticeable in teenagers and even small kids. Therefore, the term explains a form of addiction – digital dementia.
- In his 2012 book, the German neuroscientist describes that when we go into technological overkill, we lose some of our cognitive abilities much the same as people who have suffered a head injury, psychiatric illness or a stroke.
- His book, Digitale Demenz, also says people who rely too heavily on technology can suffer from a deterioration of brain function like short-term memory.
- He also proposes that short-term memory pathways will start to deteriorate further from underuse if we overuse technology.
“Compared to the real world, there is more lying and cheating in the internet environment and this, in turn, affects our own behavior” – Manfred Spitzer said as he presented the Internet addiction phenomenon as a warning sign for the future in 2012.
Digital Dementia: Multitasking on the internet with a curved spine.
Digital Dementia is already affecting you if you spend HOURS EVERY DAY seated in front of technological devices with poor posture and little movement.
More recently than ever, Digital Dementia has become a health EPIDEMIC currently resulting in a sensory mismatch in the brain from the overuse of technology and excessive slouched sitting posture.
Why Is Multitasking Bad For You: You’re not being productive, you’re actually hurting your brain with a lack of 100% focus.
According to Eric Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT, the human brain is “not wired to multitask well”. Miller explains that when people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so”. Essentially this means that by “being productive” and doing multiple tasks at once, you are significantly reducing your brain’s capacity to process information. It is simply ineffective.
Information overload through the internet is having a hugely negative impact on our ability to perform creative tasks (this can be everything from writing personalized emails and reports, to building a business presentation).
Why can’t you write an email? It’s just an email. Yes, but the second you take a break and go on Facebook and ingest information (the thousands of information) from the app or browser – your productivity reduces.
- In a study from the University of London (UoL) multitasking was said to reduce your IQ, with multitasking men dropping an average of 15 points — effectively rendering them the same cognitive capabilities as an eight year old child.
- Another study from Stanford University even found frequent multitaskers were worse at multitasking compared to those who just did it rarely. The study saw that those who changed tasks too often, couldn’t organize their thoughts, or filter out other distractions.
To make sure we are working at our optimal best — to do activities that require blocks of focused time and creativity — it is important to prevent distraction while we work. One Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary said: we need to turn off and tune out before dropping in — in order to work smarter and better.
Digital Dementia in Generation X: Born 1965-1980 (39-54 years old)
You can very much remember the time before the internet and smartphones—you could remember phone numbers relevant to you by heart. In fact, you could remember what your home phone number was 30 years ago when you were in high school.
Not only that, but you could remember the birth dates and wedding anniversaries of every member of your family—including aunts, uncles and cousins—by heart. You easily knew how to go from Point A to Point B, and what day and time your favorite shows were on TV.
Why did you remember so much? In those days, there wasn’t really any option. You could have written it all down in a journal or day planner and carried that around everywhere, but for all practical purposes – your brain was enough.
Back then you could rely on your brain for information like this but now you can a smartphone and so:
- You don’t know your own children’s phone number
- You don’t need to remember dates or appointments.
- You don’t need to know how to navigate to work, or to the store.
The smartphone has taken the place of both short and long term memory. In many ways that seems like an efficient way of life, but at what cost? These days, if you have been so distracted by your list of things to do, that you forgot your new co-workers’ name, chances are you have digital dementia.
Digital Dementia in Generation Y: Born 1981-1996 (23-38 years old)
Just 20 years ago, the amount of digital information we consumed rocketed and, unsurprisingly, has continued to increase. But we seem to forget that it’s also a crutch with consequences.
Back then, you had your Nokia mobile phone to log in everyone’s number. But you still had to remember everyone’s birthday and how to go from Point A to Point B. You also had to remember a list of things your mother gave you to the grocery store and do maths while taking back the change – there was never an option for online payment. As soon as Facebook entered the scene, you pretty much had all the information at your fingertips because, let’s face it, as Facebook evolved, so did we.
Now, you have a smartphone that is never out of arm’s reach,
You don’t need to remember dates or appointments – that’s what Alexa is for.
You don’t need to know how to navigate to work, or to the store – that’s what Siri or delivery apps are for.
But at what cost?
According to Jim Kwik, CEO of Kwik Learning and host of the Kwik Brain podcast, the consequences of digital dementia is seen in two of the most costly words: “I forgot”.
He stressed that in both business and personal life, it’s hard to show somebody that you care or that you’re reliable if you can’t remember basic essentials like the names of people you’ve met, or the report you promised your boss.
Also, if you’ve watched something on Netflix and you can’t remember it after a week, chances are the endless MINDLESS UPDATES you receive on Facebook, Gmail, Apps, etc whether you need it or not, have taken up too much space in your brain. This coupled with a bad sitting posture is a sure way to get digital dementia.
Digital Dementia in Generation Z: Born 1997-2012 (7-22 years old)
Adolescents with Digital Dementia demonstrate a decline in cognition and short-term memory loss, which are both common symptoms of dementia.
This is a cycle that will begin at a young age and carry adolescents into adulthood and beyond unless it is prevented now.
Thanks to smartphone penetrations in daily lives, youngsters who have had too much screen time, engrossed with their entertainment system, or even children who toy around with their parents’ mobile devices are all at similar risk of developing digital dementia.
“The more time a person spends staring at an electronic screen, the higher their chance of suffering from postural distortions and nervous system imbalances in the long run.”
Signs of digital dementia in kids:
- Flexor dominant posture
- Developmental delays
- Inability to remember number patterns or directions
- Social seclusion
- Lack of motivation
- Anxiety and depression
- Anger for no apparent reason
- Uncoordinated movement patterns
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Digital Dementia Reversible?
Fortunately, digital dementia isn’t something that’s permanent. That being said, Digital Dementia is just one side effect of us living in an age of information overload. The increasing number of beeps, notifications, and distractions leads to stress, burnout and ineffective working. But at the same time, we don’t want to stop keeping in touch with our friends and live in offline isolation.
Let’s carefully consider how we manage our digital lives:
- A digital dementia sufferer must create an active role in both prevention and control in order to combat the disease.
- Learn how — and when — to turn off, and turn on, all of our digital distractions. One doctor advised: “If possible, try to visit the library/ print documents and read it to gather needed information instead of relying on the Internet,”…. “You can also pick up a few physical exercises to promote good body health and improve your blood flow.”
- There is a time and a place for everything. Taking breaks is very important for this reason. “Of course, there will be times that avoiding the effects of technology will be near impossible with our current work environment,” one doctor stated. “In that case, consider taking breaks in between to stretch your legs and let your brain work a little on something else.”
- Technology is a part of our society, there is no getting around it, so how you engage with tech can improve your life. So turn off your Facebook profile, log out and stay logged off and only log in when something important comes up. To view it as a break is wrong. It is selling you products and loading your brain with information about some product you googled a week ago. Products that are trendy and viral videos which are also promoting products. Reading a book, filled with information and some tea is far beneficial to your brain – as there is less visual stimulation and more frontal lobe stimulation, which doesn’t cause any dementia.
- Learn to manage your posture as it is declining at the speed of technology. Your spine is responsible for the stimulation and nutrition of your brain. Taking care of it means not only sitting in the right posture but to also visit a chiropractor or physiotherapist to help you determine if you or a family member is suffering from Digital Dementia.
As it is not realistic to turn off technology and stop using smartphones, adopt a way to reduce your screen time per day. Work on your posture as well:
- Pull your phone up to eye level,
- At the table, pull your shoulders and head back.
- When using the computer, your ear should not be in line with your shoulder and your shoulders should be in line with your hips.
- Keep both feet on the ground and the spine straight.
- Don’t use your laptop in compromising positions. Get it out of your lap and out of your bed. Sit on a table and bring it up closer to eye level.
- Reduce your screen time and pump up your play time. This tip is not just for kids but for adults as well. When we play, especially outdoors, it activates your sensory and motor cortex from movement and tactile sensation. As you are increasing cardio by jumping up and down and swinging back and forth, you are developing fine motor pathways that have been sleeping for years. You also begin to stimulate the part of your brain that improves your balance and posture. “Play” is of vital importance to the development of children and for the maintenance of good health in adults and the elderly.
What Conditions Can Be Confused With Dementia?
Dementia is something that grandparents or senior citizens get. So how can a child be accused of suffering digital dementia and memory loss?
Sadly, dementia is so similar as soaring instances of Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions characterized by confusion, disorientation, and impaired memory—literally a ‘loss of mind.’
That stress of remembering information and feeling like you’ve got ADD might be linked to the screen lifestyle you’ve been living with in the past few years. Digital dementia is
as controversial as it is potentially troubling.
What Causes Digital Dementia?
An online community passionate about Alzheimer’s stated that digital dementia is when an individual develops a heavy reliance on their electronic devices. For birthdays, phone numbers, for breaks, for lunch, for dinner, for work and even for sleep.
By limiting your memorizing of information and just absorbing info from Youtube and Facebook without really using your brain (which you would do if you were to read a book), you hamper the development of the right side of your brain.
With modern technology, the right side of your brain (responsible for creative and imaginative thought processes) goes into mental deficiencies such as inattentiveness, short memory span, and depression.
In addition to these negative side effects, the American Posture Institute believes the prolonged periods of looking down on your screen will cause you to have a dominant flexor posture, where your shoulders and head are slumped forward in a C-shape. A bent posture can potentially lead to a cerebral dysfunction in the long term, which restricts the blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain and contributes to the symptoms of digital dementia.
What Are the Early Symptoms of Digital Dementia?
Early symptoms of digital dementia include a reduction in mental capacity (including memory, concentration and attention span). Those who have digital dementia may find it difficult to recall number patterns, directions or even names mere moments after hearing it.
In other cases, possible sufferers might exhibit postural disorders, such as the forward head posture, where the head is passively slumped forward (at all times) due to them forming a habit of looking down at their mobile screens for extended durations.
“These symptoms, while minor at first, can develop into something much more serious over time as they age,” one doctor explained. “The progressive condition can bring about a range of degenerative mental effects, such as a lack of motivation, coordination and social seclusion.”
The signs of digital dementia in teenagers/adults include:
- slouched posture
- developmental delays
- short-term memory loss
- social seclusion
- lack of movement
- balance disorders
- uncoordinated movement patterns
Can Too Much Screen Time Cause Dementia?
Yes, absolutely. When individuals spend an excessive amount of time on their electronic devices with poor posture it results in a sensory dissociation where the back of the brain is overactive and the front of the brain is under active. This has some serious drawbacks.
Signs and symptoms of Digital Dementia include:
- slouched or slumped posture,
- developmental delays,
- short-term memory loss,
- social seclusion,
- lack of movement,
- hormone balance disorders,
- uncoordinated movement patterns.
According to Fox News: “The left side of the brain is generally associated with rational thought, numerical computation, fact-finding, while the right side of the brain is responsible for more creative skills and emotional thoughts. If the right brain remains underdeveloped in the long term, it can lead to the early onset of dementia.”
The occipital lobe, located in the back of the brain processes visual signals such as visual cues from a video game, Instagram, or TV programs. While seated and engaged with technology, the front part of the brain including the frontal and parietal lobes, goes to sleep as the visuals are the first thing to kick in.
Since the frontal regions of the brain are also responsible for higher-order thinking and good behaviors (such as motivation, goal setting, reading, writing, memory, and socially appropriate behaviors), it tends to take a secondary role when we continue to use the occipital lobe. Essentially, the areas responsible for movement and body position are in a sense, sleeping and underutilized.
In case of an emergency, would you be able to tell someone’s phone number?
There was a time when we could quickly memorize anything with ease – including phone numbers, a person’s name, a small grocery list, a small dialogue from a cartoon, and even music lyrics! These days, many people are struggling to remember these simple things as they are already saved on their mobile devices.
Prior to this memorizing numbers was even a fun thing, especially for kids who grew up as Generation X and Generation Y. We would by heart as many phone numbers because it could literally save lives in an emergency.
So, it is obvious that our addictions and dependencies e on a smartphone or a computer prevents us from focusing and memorizing information. We’ve become so dependent on technology we are not even aware of that – which silently is ruining our brains.