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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Internet isn’t rotting kids’ brains

The Internet isn’t changing kids’ brains, writes cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham in an excerpt from The Reading Mind on Education Next.

“Video games and surfing the Web change the brain” in the same way reading a book changes the brain, he writes. “The brain is adaptive, so it’s always changing,” but he doesn’t think the “basic architecture of the mind” can be completely reshaped.

He sees no evidence that tech-loving young people can’t sustain their attention. Their apparent distractibility is an unwillingness to tolerate boredom.

“It’s an expectation that I should always have something interesting to listen to, watch, or read, and that creating an interesting experience should require little effort,” Willingham writes. “The mind-boggling availability of experiences afforded by digital technologies means there is always something right at hand that one might do. Unless we’re really engrossed, we have the continuous, nagging suspicion: There’s a better way to spend my time than this.”

A “very low threshold for boredom” can be addressed by changing beliefs about what’s “worthy of sustained attention,” he writes. “It’s not due to long-term changes in the brain that represent a fundamental (and unwanted) overhaul in how attention operates.”

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