Read a good book lately? Ever wonder why the last book that moved you drew a lukewarm reaction to your best friend who you recommended it to? And vice versa?
Could be that we all just have different tastes or memorable experiences that resonate with books that clang off our friends like a peice of iron off a metal gate. Or, some might say, it suggests something about how are brains are wired.
The Web and the brain
A book by Nicholas Carr called, “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,” takes a look at the concept that constant online usage is affecting how the neural circuits of our brain are wired. And Mediapost writer Gord Hotchkiss explains that, “The brain has a habit of developing multiple paths to the same end goal. Many functions that our brain controls tend to have dual routes: a quick and dirty one that rips through the brain at lightning speed and a slower, more rational one.”
Guess which route the brain takes when reading content from the Web?
Some would say there is a danger here, especially if Internet reading supplants books and long-form articles for the young brains of children and teens. Others would ask, “Is there really much difference between this situation and when we were reading ‘Cliff’s Notes,’ instead of the longer version of ‘War and Peace’?”
Video games a threat?
OK, but what about the time young minds spend with video games? Can any good come from that?
Steven Poole of London’s online edition of the newspaper, The Guardian, has written, “As has always been the case … the adult paranoia expressed here about the supposedly harmful influence of videogames depends on a sublime ignorance of the form. In fact, you’re not going to get far in most modern videogames if you can’t read. And some of them make you read an awful lot.”
In support of his assertion, Poole cites the series of games Nintendo DS produced starring Phoenix Wright. These are games in which you play the part of a defense lawyer in a series of wild criminal trials that get more complex as you move along through conversations that you must recall and sift for contradictions. Says Poole, “At a rough estimate, one Phoenix Wright game contains at least as much text as your average children’s novel.”
Another game, “The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass,” has many scripted conversations and written signs to read and also makes players write, jotting down notes on their maps via a touchscreen and stylus so they can solve the puzzles and navigate through increasingly hazardous temples.
Getting children and teens away from the Internet is probably not going to happen as the following stats show:
Are there dangers in young minds spending too much time on the Web? You bet. The vulnerability that children and teens have in spending time with inappropriate sites is alarming. But the danger of them spending so much time reading on the Internet — even if it is reading the posts of Facebook friends — is probably less than spending 270 minutes a day in fron the TV set.
Like everything else, balance and moderation are the best bet, and it is up to parents to insure that their kids are reading longer-form books and articles as well as reading the Web.