Or so says celebrity brain expert, Baroness Greenfield. After all it has been a few weeks since her last national news headline! Children are being damaged by Twitter she says:
Baroness Greenfield, professor of pharmacology at Oxford University, said a decline in physical human contact meant children struggled to formulate basic social skills and emotional reactions.
She criticised the “unhealthy” addiction to Twitter among some users who resort to increasingly nasty outbursts under the “sanitised and often anonymous guise of the web”.
Did someone have a go at the Baroness on Twitter? Or is she merely surfing on the Twitter brand - after all, her main beef is about the social development of children. And Twitter is full of children!
Baroness Greenfield quoted figures showing that more than half of 13- to 17-year-olds now spend more than 30 hours a week using video games, computers, e-readers, mobile phones and other screen-based technology.
Apparently all this stuff is making children less well-behaved, is turning them into a bunch of narcissists and creating a generation of cyber-bullies. Doubtless something must be done!
“To have this ultimate beauty contest showing how much better you are than everyone else can only lead to sadness because there will always be someone who scores higher than you," she said. "It means you are constantly lacking in self-esteem, over narcissistic and, at the same time, in constant anxiety.”
Baroness Greenfield also warned that social networking websites were fuelling bullying, adding: “The anonymity of the web can make it easier to do and also removes the constraints that would normally apply for what one might regard as human nature.”
The good Baroness presents no evidence at all to support her contentions - not a single study, nothing that has been through that pesky peer review process. This is just comment made in an interview ahead of Baroness Greenfield presenting her "findings" (also known as her "opinion"). The only piece of "evidence" is a report of an opinion survey of English teachers who think kids have shorter attention spans. Now I love opinion polls but this isn't evidence of anything other than the informed prejudice of one set of teachers.
What seems to be bothering the Baroness is that children are less likely to sit like supine sheep awaiting the latest dollop of whatever their elders and betters believe they should be fed. The choice and liberty that "screen-based technology" provides makes it harder to socialise young people into a particular set of behaviours. It seems to me that young people can (and do) pay attention but that having alternatives to hand means that they are less tolerant of boring lectures.
Finally, Baroness greenfield seems to think that children are spending the sixty-odd hours of the week when they aren't looking at a screen or sleeping doing absolutely nothing. Perhaps gazing blankly into space or wandering zombie-like round the house. Funnily enough those children are spending that time in a social environment surrounded by and interacting with their peers, their parents and their teachers.
The Internet - whether its Twitter, Facebook or something with penguins - isn't corrupting our youth. In fact it might just be liberating them!