The pandemic caused by governments’ response to Covid-19 confined people to their homes, increasing their connection to technology.
The growth of distance education and online work, along with the rapid advance of artificial intelligence, contributed to a growing epidemic of digital dementia. This affects not only adults, but also children whose developing brains are harmed by excessive use of electronic devices.
Dementia is a disease that shrinks the physiological structure of the brain and is often linked to age. However, digital dementia affects even children with their brains in full development, affected by electrodependence.
To prevent digital dementia, it is crucial to teach how to use technology wisely. Encouraging the use of print media, such as paper books and magazines instead of tablets or cell phones, can counteract its negative effects. Additionally, playing outdoor sports and games that encourage real-time problem solving, such as chess and puzzles, promotes creativity and cognitive development.
On the contrary, electronic games only increase attention and stimulate a dependent reaction to the proposals of technological devices.
The culture of example is the most important. Children are the mirror of their parents. There is a general complaint that children do not read, but it could not be otherwise when there are no books in the house or if there are, they are not read frequently.
Digital dementia also affects memory, as reliance on electronic devices to remember information has decreased the ability to remember phone numbers, addresses, and everyday details. The loss of high-level skills, such as understanding and learning, is a significant concern.
Before, we remembered the phone numbers of friends and family. Also the addresses, but today by opening Google Maps and writing the name of the person scheduled in a few seconds, their address and even how to travel to their home will appear.
When the cell phone stops working or disappears, the brain cannot make phone calls because the primary function of memory has been entrusted to an accessory. It is a drama since people do not remember things that they previously knew perfectly and the younger ones are even worse: they never finish learning something by heart. They also do not pay attention to remembering what is scheduled on their cell phone.
On the day a cell phone is stolen, you don’t know what to do. The use of new technologies affects the brain without one realizing it. Without the car’s GPS, you only have a vague idea of how to get to places, even the routes you take frequently.
If the brain is used it grows and expands, but if it is not used, it atrophies. That is why more and more young people are affected by what they believe is a memory problem, but in reality it is due to a lack of exercise of the brain, which has been supplanted by technologies, which caused the so-called “digital dementia.” .
Before you traveled through the city remembering all the streets, today you use the GPS to take you wherever you want. Technology frees up memory space for us to use our brains for more important things. The problem appears when high-level skills, such as understanding and learning ability, are lost. To the extent that we stop reading and learning new things because we are trapped by our cell phones or technological devices, those high-level capabilities are lost. And that is worrying. For a person to lose the ability to understand texts is a serious problem.
When a person knows that they store certain information on a computer, which they will later have access to, they remember less than when they think that they will not be able to access that information later. The brain adapts to the experiences that the environment offers it.
That’s why today we don’t remember phone numbers because there’s no need to remember them. But the brain develops new skills, in that sense the change in cognitive functioning is not something negative, but can be interpreted as the plasticity that the brain has to adapt to the environment and what it proposes to it.
As it was absorbed by digitization, photographs, medical studies, vaccination receipts, identity documents, contracts, utility bills, were no longer classified and filed correctly. Everything ended up in the same place in memory. Additionally, given the ability of digital devices to automatically save, excessive digital trash accumulated instead of backing up properly.
However, artificial intelligence itself has created tools that facilitate the task of remembering through labels. Google or Apple reservoirs can easily discriminate and tag moments, people and objects, using keywords that reveal only what is searched for.
But everything should not be left on the side of technology. Human beings have the ability to organize what interests them and to highlight what is important, organize it by hierarchies and eliminate what is superfluous or anecdotal or digital garbage. It’s a matter of dedicating time to time.
There are ways to determine if there is any difficulty in cognitive functions. The cognitive evaluation also known as benchmarking can be carried out on memory, attention, concentration, language, reading ability; comparing them with normal or extraordinary standards. In this way it can be determined if there is any deficit that requires diagnosis, treatment or training.
Although technology brings benefits, it is important to be aware of how it is used, the limitations of the attentional apparatus and the anxiety that not being connected can produce. For cognitive stimulation, it is recommended to change. Adding new routines or varying the usual ones helps create new neural connections. You can choose another route, change the organization of the contents or use the cutlery with the opposite hand.
It is not about delegating everything to the cell phone or abandoning technology forever. The best is probably somewhere in the middle. The best is the enemy of the good.
But perhaps we don’t have to blame life and what we should do is stop creating that fatalistic narrative and accept that perhaps our fantasies or aspirations are preventing us from truly achieving our goals.
Although technology offers benefits, it is essential to be aware of its limitations and its impact on mental health. Changing routines, stimulating the mind with various activities and finding a balance in the use of technology are necessary steps.
Uncertainty about future survival skills and the need for security create tensions that affect mental health. Two opposing impulses, personal expansion and certainty, must be balanced to humanize technology. Awareness, expansion, certainties and well-being are the pillars to achieve a balanced use of technology, maintaining the connection with humanity and promoting emotional well-being. In conclusion, digital dementia is a contemporary challenge that requires awareness, changes in habits and a balanced approach towards technology to safeguard our mental and cognitive health in the digital age.