Duh Research: Screen Time Dumbs Down Mental Processes

March 26, 2020

Baby Boomers complain that Millennials spend all their time on their phones, the latter complain that the older folks are stuck in their ways ands ruined the world. Generational arguments are tales as old as humanity and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette preaches to the choir, “Screens Encourage Shallow Reading; Here’s How To Dive Deeper.”

Due to the amount of work done digitally, people have developed habits to complete their work quicker. This includes skimming emails, texts, and other reading materials. People have the intention of going back to their reading lists and completing them later, but more work and more reading piles up. The “going back” never happens. Skimming content without fully digesting it or even delving into deeper mental dives does create a reading problem.

Wise reading involves searching for clues, key details, and practicing sequential thinking. If these skills are not used, they wither.

Other schools of thought, however, believe that digital work will not mess with brain functions, but there are disadvantages to digital reading. People comprehend and retain material better when it is printed on paper. It does not matter, though, how content is published it is meant for entertainment.

Digital reading platforms imitate physical books by including “page turns” and removing distractions like ads, while others send the reader encouraging notifications or they are designed like social media platforms.

The way people read has changed and the articles explains that new and old technologies have their own languages. There is a list of suggested habits to practice better reading and screen time:

When you can, pick the right environment.

“For a lot of us, it’s kind of romantic to read in a coffee shop,” Willingham said. “But if you’re doing difficult reading, that may be pretty distracting.”

Then, cut out remaining distractions. Turn off WiFi or even put your phone in airplane mode, Willingham said.

Take breaks. There’s lots of evidence that taking breaks truly refreshes your mind, Willingham said. The best timing for those breaks could vary from person to person.

Don’t use breaks for Instagram and email. “That’s not actually very restful, it’s just a different type of work,” Willingham said. It never hurts to take a walk.

Take mornings or evenings (or both) off-screen. Contemplation and reflection are just as important as the work you’re leaving behind, Wolf said. Get in the habit of bookending your days with an “alternative view of what productivity really needs.””

It is the same advice listed in other similar columns and beats down to: turn off the screen. Screen time is addictive, but it does not make people stupider. It makes them less observant. Moderation is the key to everything, but how often is that taught? Answer? Duh.

Whitney Grace, March 26, 2020


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