Monday, March 28, 2011


This is my fourth and final post on PLAY, based on Stuart Brown's book "play".

"The intense visual stimuli that screens provide, along with a captivating narrative, can be very seductive playmates. I've seen kids who are happily playing with blocks on the floor, interacting with each other, negotiating, inventing new story lines, being energetic and talkative. And then the television comes on and play stops. Interaction is no more. The story line is set by the box, and the kids are now merely along for the ride, motionless and mute. Single-player video games are similarly attention hogs and socially isolating.....
......The other concern I have with the excessive use of screen based entertainments is that they neglect a deep human need to interact with the material world:...... Much of our interaction with this world is through the hands ........ the hand has been far and away the primary tool our body uses for manipulating (a word derived from the Latin word for "hand") the world around us. ......  "a hand is always searching for a brain and a brain is in search for a hand" as Frank Wilson likes to say.
Wilson feels, as do I, ....... that the use of the hands to manipulate three-dimensional objects is an essential part of brain development. All over the world kids play with blocks, fashion mud pies, push around toys, throw balls, build 'forts' and 'houses'. Normal play, the play that I have shown is constantly fertilizing neural growth and complexity, is packed with examples of hand use.
......... So when kids involve their hands in work, play and exploration, they are developing their brains in a manner that is in line with our design ......."
Page 184 -185 "play": Stuart Brown.

How many screens do you have at your house? I have to be honest and report that currently there are 5 at my house :(
As Nicholas Carr says, "........ it is hard to imagine life without it (the worldwide web)." But Carr joins Stuart Brown in his concern about its affect on our brain, then goes a step further to say ~ "The digital age is changing the makeup of our brains in a negative way". Carr speaks of scientific research revealing that the net's constant interruptions and distractions "is turning us into scattered and superficial thinkers". Carr admits his own difficulty in this area in an article "The Internet is Making us Dumber", saying, "I realised I was losing my own capacity for concentration and contemplation. Even when I was away from my computer, my mind seemed hungry for stimulation, for quick hits of information. I felt perpetually distracted." His research backed up his personal concerns - that computers increase the speed of mind function or automatic thinking, but that simultaneously the mind lessens its rigorous thinking skills and the "subtlety of human thought."

Nicholas Carr also compared the comprehension level of a reader reading "text studded with links", to the reader "who reads words printed on pages." The first reader, who was reading online with the ready-to-go clicks to numerous extras on offer, comprehends less when compared to a reader reading words printed on the page of a book. (For your better reading comprehension I will stay add-free and linkless if possible :))  He says the same is true for people watching a multi media presentation versus "a more sedate and focused manner" of information presentation.

The common element under attack here is one's concentration or one's attention.
Paying close attention to new pieces of information is essential for any connection "meaningfully and systematically with knowledge already well established in our memory" to occur, says Nobel Prize winning Neuroscientist Eric Kandel.
The constant distraction of the screen of our computer or mobile phone makes it virtually impossible for our brain to form the deep and wide connections essential for the development of a mind of substance.
Patricia Greenfield is a developmental psychologist and runs UCLA's Children's Digital Media Centre. She has reviewed dozens of studies on how media technologies affect cognitive abilities. Greenfield says that the asset of screen-based media is that it develops visual-spacial intelligence, providing skills of "keeping track of lots of rapidly changing signals", as a pilot would use when piloting a plane, or a medic would use when "monitoring a patient during surgery." But the detrimental side is dramatic, with "new weaknesses in higher-order cognitive processes", and lacks in "abstract vocabulary, mindfulness, reflection, inductive problem solving, critical thinking and imagination." It all points to "shallow" brain development.
Working styles of both academic researchers and the working habits of school and university students on line, involves rapid movement from document to document with little time actually spent looking at the words on each page. 
A recent experiment at Stanford University found that people who are heavy media multi-taskers were more easily distracted, had trouble controlling their attention and were less competent in identifying important information from trivia. these findings surprised the researchers, with one summing it up saying, "Everything distracts them".
Nicholas Carr says that the trouble is that when we turn the screen off, these problems don't leave us, because "our habits of mind" are being remodelled by the computer. Some aspects are being strengthened while others are weakened, permanently altering how we think.

But, you may say, this is all 'miles away' from where my children are, and you may think their video gaming or computer screen play is completely suitable.
Online gaming, Stuart Brown says, "offers a world in which they (kids) can succeed. They are quickly rewarded for success and failure is easily reversed." But real life is not like this - full of regular quick rewards, or offering control to reverse failures. The child therefore who spends a lot of time in online gaming is learning a distortion of how life and relationships work. Regular gamers are not equipped to deal well with life's varied and ambiguous challenges because they 'live' so much in the false game-created world. 
Brown says that children. as well as adults who experience intense pressure to succeed, a strong need to 'get to the top', or find themselves in 'rigid career paths' which offer little opportunities for them to express or be themselves, can often find online gaming very attractive ~ even addictive. The controlled world, the clear unambiguous qualities and the decisive WIN nature of these games, is extremely comfortable to them.

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ where will you 'go' with this information?
It may all be old knowledge, or seem thoroughly 'over the top', or a worry to you.
Stuart Brown throughout his book, "play", refers to the need for children and adults to be involved in "three-dimensional, physical and social play". He likens this to being on a balanced healthy diet that gives nourishment and maximum strength in development as well as contentment and satisfaction.

Dominant play that consists of gaming, Stuart describes to be like a two-dimensional picture which activates only part of the visual cortex of the brain, leaving vast areas unaroused and "silent". This he compares to be like living on a diet full of sugar hits - yes providing instant gratification but in truth being hugely damaging in the long term.

I know I need to have some conversations with my family. 
How about you?


No comments:

Post a Comment