Recenze Marek Preiss
Manfred Spitzer: Digital dementia: What We and Our Children are Doing to our Minds. Brno: Host, 2014
Marek Preiss 1,2,3
- Prague Psychiatric Center
- National Institute of Mental Health
- University of New York in Prague
Manfred Spitzer’s book from 2012 called Digital Dementia (Brno: Host, 2014) is remarkable, brilliantly-written and well translated. The author is a German neuroscientist and psychiatrist in a leadership position. By the book title – digital dementia – Spitzer refers to the term digital emigrants that labels a generation of people born after 1980. This generation grew up with computers as a natural part of life. Spitzer primarily disapproves of excessive playing of computer games, relying on the ease of obtaining information and external information sources that replace deeper understanding. Since the publication has received a number of reviews even in the Czech press (to say nothing of foreign countries), it is very likely that this book will influence the opinion of the general public. And because it also affects the computer rehabilitation, we should become familiar with the author’s opinion.
Since the beginning, Spitzer makes it clear that he is prejudiced against the digital media (e.g. he uses sentences like “Compared to the real world, there is more lying and cheating in the internet environment and this in turn affects our own behavior” (p. 70) or “If you want your child’s school results to get worse, buy him (or her) a video game console.” (p. 184). Nevertheless, his prejudice is based on long-term interest in the issue. Arguments such as “Digital media are causing the decline of education among young people” (p. 200) and “at a closer inspection, repeated praising of the digital skills of the young generation vanishes into smoke” (p. 193–194) extend throughout the book. The book is dominated by a warning message: “those who spent a lot of time using audiovisual media in early childhood have already affected the brain development, especially the normal development of speech” (p. 269).
Spitzer presents the internet addiction as a warning sign for the future. In South Korea, approximately 12% of schoolchildren are addicted to internet (p. 70). In 2009, the US children spent in average 11 times more time watching television (approximately 4.9 hours per day) than reading a book (p. 14). In Germany (2009), the average student of the ninth grade spent 7.14 hours with electronic media (television, video, DVD, chatting on the internet, computer games; this does not include mp3s and mobile phones).
Spitzer claims that the brain behaves like a muscle; it grows when used and atrophies when not used. Cognitive training takes place automatically during the mental and physical effort. Mental effort lies in the active dealing with the world. Mental efficiency is related to the amount and depth of the mental tasks/actions performed. Computers are not optimal teaching aids, because learning process requires an independent mental work and a deep engagement in learning. The deeper we get engaged in learning the better we manage it. The depth of mental work is replaced by digital shallowness. The praised multitasking actually represents attention deficit disorder. Digital media cause problems with self-control. The excessive use of digital media is related with undesirable phenomena such as obesity, stress and sleep disorders.
Volume 3 Issue 2/2014 Full text zpět