Science 3 min read

Researchers Explain How Our Online Time Affects Our Brain

A recent study supports claims that prolonged online time has a negative impact on our brain's structure, function, and cognitive development.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Image Credit: Pixabay

Our online time has been on a steady rise since 2000.

In the United States, time spent on the internet rose from 9.4 hours per week in 2000 to 23.6 hours eighteen years later. Of that time, we spend 17.6 hours per week surfing the web in our homes.

Why the big leap, you ask? one word summarizes the answer; smartphones.

Back in 2010, only 23 percent of people accessed the internet through their smartphone. Now, the number has jumped to 84 percent.

Whether we’re streaming movies or keeping up with our workflow, we now depend on the internet for everything. Unfortunately, our dependence comes at a price.

According to a recent publication in World Psychiatry, our longer online time has a negative impact on cognitive processes. In other words, the internet may be changing our brain’s structure and functions.

How Online Time Affects the Brain

Senior research fellow at NICM Health Research Institute, Dr. Joseph Firth led a study to explore how the internet affects the brains structure, function, and cognitive development.

His findings confirmed the widespread belief; that high level of internet indeed affects many brain functions.

Thanks to the numerous streams on prompts and notifications from the internet, we always have to hold divided attention. As a result, we have a lower capacity to maintain concentration on a single task, said Dr. Firth.

Speaking on the issue, director of research at NICM Health Research Institute and senior author on the report, Professor Jerome Sarris said:

“The bombardment of stimuli via the Internet, and the resultant divided attention commonly experienced presents a range of concerns. I believe that this, along with the increasing #Instagramification of society, can alter both the structure and functioning of the brain, while potentially also altering our social fabric.”

Also, parents have expressed concerns about the amount of time their kids spend on the internet.

According to Ofcom’s study, kids spend more time streaming online videos now more than ever. About 49 percent of children and 32 percent of pre-schoolers now watch subscription on-demand services. These include Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Now TV.

As a result, the opportunity for social interactions and the context that social relationships can take place has been drastically altered, says Firth.

Avoiding the Negative Impact of the Internet

To minimize the potential negative impact of high internet usage, the researcher recommends a reduced screen time. That way, children will not miss out on critical developmental activities such as exercise and social interaction.

He also suggested constant communication between parents and their offsprings.

Firth noted:

“Alongside this, speaking to children about how their online lives affect them is also important.”

Read More: The Argument for Access to the Internet as a Human Right

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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