The Internet can make changes to specific brain regions and affect your attention capacity, memory processes and social interaction, according to a new study. As per the World Psychiatry research, the Internet can produce both critical and sustained changes in specific areas of cognition. Researchers from Oxford University and Harvard University examined leading hypotheses on how the Internet may alter cognitive processes.
It further explored the extent to which these hypotheses were supported by recent findings from psychological, psychiatric and neuroimaging research. The report combined the evidence to produce revised models on how the Internet could change the brain's structure, function and cognitive development.
The recent introduction and widespread adoption of these online technologies, along with social media, is also of concern to some teachers and parents. The World Health Organization's 2018 guidelines recommended that young children (aged 2-5) should be exposed to one hour per day, or less, of screen time.
However, the report also found that the vast majority of research examining the effects of the Internet on the brain has been conducted in adults -- and so more research is needed to determine the benefits and drawbacks of Internet use in young people.
"The key findings of this report are that high levels of Internet use could indeed impact on many functions of the brain," said Joseph Firth, Senior Research Fellow at Western Sydney University in Australia.
"For example, the limitless stream of prompts and notifications from the Internet encourages us towards constantly holding divided attention -- which then, in turn, may decrease our capacity for maintaining concentration on a single task," said Firth, who led the study.
Firth said although more research is needed, avoiding the potential negative effects could be as simple as ensuring that children are not missing out on other crucial developmental activities, such as social interaction and exercise, by spending too much time on digital devices.
"To help with this, there are also now a multitude of apps and software programs available for restricting Internet usage and access on smartphones and computers -- which parents and carers can use to place some 'family-friendly' rules around both the time spent on personal devices, and also the types of content engaged with," Firth said.
(With agency inputs)