She claims that computers are at risk of causing ‘mind change’ while scientists are ignoring the issue. Needless to say, I was not impressed.
I was interested to read Professor Susan Greenfield’s opinion piece “Computers may be altering or brains – we must ask how” (12 August), where she laments that other scientists are refusing to debate the issue of how the internet and computer technology are affecting the mind and brain. She also claims that other scientists are dismissing her concerns by saying “there’s no evidence”.
This is clearly nonsense. There are over 3,000 scientific studies on the effect of technology on the mind and brain and a scientific community actively engaged in this debate, all of which Greenfield chooses to ignore in favour of her own alarmist conclusions. I am sure this is not simple unawareness, because Professor Greenfield specifically invited me to present the evidence to her at a debate on this topic at the House of Lords. The transcript is available on her own website. [You can download it as a pdf]
If Professor Greenfield wishes to engage in the debate about the impact of technology she is more than welcome to join the research community and discuss the evidence behind her concerns. So far, this evidence does not suggest that children’s or anyone else’s brains are being damaged by mobile phones, email, or Facebook. We know each has its own balance of effects, positive and negative, like all other media (newspapers included).
But instead of engaging with the evidence, Greenfield uses her media profile to communicate her ill-informed concerns to the public at large. This is neither helpful to science nor to concerned parents attempting to understand how they can best help their children use technology to their benefit.
The professor clearly has good intentions, but to become genuinely helpful she needs to be aware about what we actually know about the impact of technology. I would welcome her informed contribution to the debate.
Although I won’t be holding my breath.
Link to Independent letters page for 18th August.