Is Using The Internet Changing Our Brains?

Is using the internet changing the way our brains work?

The website has published a chart full of statistics and quotes from various sources, summarizing what scientists have discovered about the ways the Internet seems to be shaping our minds.

During an average day, most people now spend about 8.5 hours engaged with screens and only 20 minutes reading the printed page.

And in the past 12 years, the average American’s attention span—for example, in a conversation–fell from twelve seconds to just eight.

For those who are considered Internet “addicts,” the brain areas responsible for speech, memory, motor control and the senses have decreased by 10% to 20%.

Similarly, brain scans of heavy Internet users showed “fundamentally altered prefrontal cortexes.”  Brain scans of web newbies using the internet just five hours in a week also demonstrated evidence of the brain beginning to reconfigure itself.

Yikes, I’d better get off the computer!

In other tech and culture news, girls are twice as likely to experience online bullying as boys.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 11% of teen boys and 22% of teen girls have been victims of “cyberbullying.”

That’s critical information, because the same study shows that teens bullied online are more than three times as likely to engage in suicide attempts than peers who aren’t bullied.  By the way, the highest rate of attempted suicide was among kids who were picked on both at school and online.

If your child is being bullied online, go to to find out how to stop it.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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Do Couples Who Meet Online Have More Successful Marriages?

Do people who meet online have more successful marriages?  Maybe so.

A new study from the University of Chicago has found that one-third of American marriages involve people who met online.  And it appears that those couples have higher levels of marital satisfaction than those who meet in more traditional ways.

According to a story on, the study found that of couples who got together online, 5.9% broke up, versus 7.6% of those who met offline.

Dr. John Cacioppo, one of the study’s authors, says  “Given the marriages that we studied were from one to seven years in duration, I was surprised we found any differences in marital breakups.”

One caveat–the study was funded by online-dating site  However, the results were analyzed by independent statisticians.

But some say it’s too early in the life of the Internet to be making bold predictions about the power of online dating.  Jason Krafsky, who co-authored the book “Facebook and Your Marriage” says “I’m not ready to accept that any marriage that begins on any online site is better quality than offline relationships.”

Krafsy says that’s because the phenomenon of meeting online is still relatively new, and only half of divorces occur in the first eight years.”

E-Harmony’s founder, Dr. Neil Clark Warren, is encouraged by the results.  Dr. Warren says it’s his mission to reduce the divorce rate from 50% to single digits.

He says “It’s not that it’s too easy to get divorced,” Warren says. “It’s that it’s too easy to get married.”

By the way, if you’re single and looking for a life mate, let me recommend a section of scripture you may find helpful—Galatians 5:22-23.  That’s the “Fruit of the Spirit” passage.  If you focus on those qualities in a dating partner, and ask God to help you develop them yourself—you’re more likely to have a successful marriage from the start.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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A New Report On American Families & “Tech Time”

Are American kids spending too much time with tech?  Not if you ask their parents.

The Chicago Tribune reports on research done at Northwestern University that found that parents don’t seem to be concerned about their kids’ use of media.

The study looked at over 2,000 moms and dads of children age 8 and younger.

It found that the majority of parents are largely unconcerned about their children becoming “addicted” to new media.

Nearly 8 in 10 parents reported no conflicts about their kids’ logging too many hours online. They were far more worried about issues like health and safety and nutrition and fitness.

Not surprisingly, the study found that kids’ tech habits mirrored their family’s own media environment.

The researchers identified three different categories of media and tech use: “media-centric,” “moderate,” and “light.”

In the “light” households, the parents and their kids both averaged less than two hours a day of screen time.  In the “moderate” homes, parents were plugged in or logged on about 5 hours per day, with their kids averaging 3 hours.

The “media-centric” families are the ones that scare me.  The parents averaged 11 hours of tech time a day, with their kids logged in about 4-/12 hours.   Eleven hours a day?  When do these people sleep?  Or maybe they don’t.

By the way, the researchers at Northwestern say the mellow attitudes about media and tech use may be due to the fact that That Generation X and millennial parents grew up in the digital age, and have a more “nuanced” view of tech time.  That’s all well and good—but ELEVEN HOURS A DAY???

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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Could Prime Time TV Shows Soon Become Nastier?

Could primetime TV be getting “nastier?”  It sure looks that way.

According to Fox News, the Federal Communications Commission is proposing changes to its TV content guidelines.  These changes could end longstanding prohibitions against certain kinds of profanity and nudity on broadcast television.

John Conway, CEO of Astonish Media Group predicts that primetime television will start looking more like cable TV in terms of language and content.  He says “I’m sure networks will test limits for ratings as they do now, but I think the American public will keep the worst outrages in check as they do now.”

Dan Isett of the Parents Television Council says “There is an enormous amount of TV content that parents are going to find problematic, offensive or even harmful to their children.”

In other culture-related news, unplugging in a wireless world seems to be impossible for most of us.

According to a story on Plugged, the average smartphone user checks his or her device approximately 150 times a day, which works out to about once every six waking minutes.

That’s even as more and more experts are suggesting that our tight connection to our mobile devices may ultimately prove counterproductive.

Tanya Schevitz, is with Reboot, an organization focused on helping people unplug more often.  She says “It’s like an arms race … everything is an emergency.”

“We have created an expectation in society that people will respond immediately to everything with no delay. It’s unhealthy, and it’s unproductive, and we can’t keep going on like this.”

Something to think about this weekend, particularly on Sunday.  Jeremiah 17:22 reminds us “Do not do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors.  Oops—guess I better turn off my notifications this Sunday!

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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Culture Watch: Internet, Marriage & Work Ethic

Do you want to get married?  Go online!

That the way things work these days, according to researcher Andriana Bellou at the University of Montreal.  Atlantic magazine did a story about her study that found areas with broadband web access have higher marriage rates.

She also found that twenty-something singles in a given city were more likely to get married after broadband became available.

Professor Bellou writes that targeted web searches may lead to matches of more compatible people and it’s possible that such matches will lead to stronger marriages.

However she cautions that if meeting people becomes easier at all times and ages, those in difficult marriages may be more likely to get divorced.  That’s because they may see the grass as being greener with online prospects, leading to a higher divorce rate overall.

In other culture-related news, a large percentage young people say working hard is simply not for them.  39% of Americans in the millennial generation now say they don’t want to work hard.

That’s a drastic increase from the 25% of young people who said that in the 1970s.

Researchers Jean Twenge and Tim Kasser believe the rise in entitlement can be traced to the environment these kids were raised in.

They say that tough economic times and a society with a large number of unmarried parents could contribute to a more materialistic mindset.  They also believe that advertising may cause young people to want lots of STUFF, but don’t they don’t think they should have to work for it.

In light of that, check out these words from Proverbs 10:4—“Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.”

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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The Link Between Social Networking In College And Grade Point Average

There are only 24 hours in a day. So it makes sense that the more time college students engage with social media and entertainment, the lower their GPA will be.

And according to Plugged, that precisely the case.

Researchers at The Miriam Hospital Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine did an interesting study to determine the impact of social media, tech communication, and entertainment.

They surveyed 483 freshmen women at the start of their first semester at an unnamed Northeastern university, then correlated their grades with their use of 11 different forms of media.

Here are the types of media they included:  television, movies, music, Internet, social networking, talking on cell phones, texting, magazines, newspapers, books (unrelated to school) and video games.

The researchers found that the college women engaged with these media an average of 12 hours a day—yikes!

The more time they spent with media, the more media, the lower their grades.

Lead researcher Dr. Jennifer Walsh says this about her team’s findings:

“We found women who spend more time using some forms of media report fewer academic behaviors, such as completing homework and attending class, lower academic confidence and more problems affecting their school work, like lack of sleep and substance use.”

So if you have a son or daughter heading off to college this fall, encourage them to develop some healthy media habits now, before they the experience the academic pressures and tight schedules of university life.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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Some New Stats On Tech And Your Teen

Some new stats are out on tech and your teen.

A new study has found that 78% of American teens have a cell phones, and nearly half of those own a smartphone.  The research was done by the Pew Internet and American Life Project

According to, The study also found that 93% of teens have access to a computer at home, and 1 out of 4 have a tablet computer.

As for accessing the Internet, 74% reported surfing on a smartphone or tablet at least occasionally.  About a quarter of those kids say they mostly browse the web using their smartphone.

Meanwhile, the most popular website among teens is YouTube.  Over 90% of teens between the ages of 13 and 18 check the video-sharing site at least once weekly—compared to 65% who check Facebook weekly.

Researchers also found that teens will hop online no matter what they’re doing in the physical world. About 56% of them admitted to plugging into the Internet while doing homework or attending church.

Twenty-five percent of kids say they usually visited their first online site within five minutes of waking up in the morning, and all of the teens polled said they were on the Internet more than an hour daily.

As for YouTube’s traffic overall, two weeks ago company officials announced that the site recently logged a billion views in a month for the first time.

If you’ve got teenagers at home, stats like these demonstrate how important it is to provide your kids with regular guidance about the use of technology.  The bible has some solid advice for all of us in Philippians chapter 4, verse 8:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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Can Too Much TV Turn Your Kid Into A Problem Child?

Can too much TV turn your kid into a real problem child?

Another study has come out on kids and TV, and it should provide a wake up call for parents.

Ryan Jaslow at reports that British researchers found that young children who watched television longer than three hours per day were more likely to develop antisocial behaviors such as fighting, stealing or bullying.

Study author Dr. Alison Parkes, points out that the impact found by the researchers wasn’t huge.  But she says “It could be the tip of the iceberg and if we knew what they were watching, we might find more of an effect.”

Here’s how the study was set up.  Mothers were given questionnaires when their kids were 5 and then again at age 7.  They measured conduct problems, emotional symptoms, poor attention span and hyperactivity, difficulties making friends, and the amount of empathy or concern the kids had for others.

They were also asked how often their child watched television or played computer and video games.

The researchers found that almost two-thirds of the children watched TV for one to three hours a day, with 15 percent watching more than three hours a day.

After ruling out other factors like family characteristics, the researchers discovered that watching more than three hours of TV per day was associated with a small but significant increase in risk for antisocial behavior and conduct problems.

They point out that more work is needed to show a direct cause and effect link between TV and behavioral problems.

By the way, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teen spend no more of two hours per day watching television, and the content of those shows should be “high quality.”

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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Teen Tech Culture: Video Games, Plus…Is Your Teen Texting In Her Sleep?

Here’s the latest from the world of tech and youth culture.

According a story on, last year the Cartoon Network released an app that allows kids to watch their favorite shows while simultaneously playing video games based on those shows.

Cartoon Network executive Chris Waldron came up with the idea, and he says the app has now been downloaded “millions and millions of times.”

Waldron believes content efforts in the future will continue to merge these different forms of onscreen interactions into a single experience.  TV manufacturers are introducing apps into their TVs, and Waldron says “ that world where you seamlessly move back and forth between interacting and watching TV will only increase.”

Is your teen texting in her sleep?  Experts say teenagers are increasingly texting in their sleep—or the dreamy limbo state between sleep and wakefulness.

Dr. Elizabeth Dowdell, a nursing professor at Villanova University, says “The phone will beep, and they’ll answer the text.  They’ll either respond in words or gibberish.

Dr. Dowdell points out that when these kids wake up, they have absolutely no memory of sending or receiving a text.  She says this is a symptom of teens not getting enough sleep and using technology far too much.

A few weeks ago I talked about a study on the negative consequences of allowing your child to have a TV in their bedroom.  The “texting while sleeping” research is just one more reason why parents should make their kids’ rooms “tech free zones.”

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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Making The Right TV Choices For Your Preschooler

What kind of television shows do you allow your young kids to watch?

According to new research, switching channels from violent TV shows to educational programs can improve preschoolers’ behavior.

The Associated Press reports on the study which was conducted by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.  Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at the institute, says although the results were modest, turning off violent shows may help young children avoid aggressive, destructive behavior.

Dr. Christakis says “It’s not just about turning off the television. It’s about changing the channel. What children watch is as important as how much they watch,”

The study involved over 500 Seattle parents, who periodically filled out TV-watching diaries and questionnaires measuring their child’s behavior.

Half of the parents were coached for six months on getting their 3-to-5-year-old kids to watch shows like “Sesame Street” and “Dora the Explorer,” and to turn off more violent programs like “Power Rangers.”  The rest of the parents in the study group were coached on establishing healthy eating habits for their kids.

After six months, the kids whose parents were coached on TV content showed a bit more improvement in their behavior.  Low-income boys appeared to get the most short-term benefit.

Nancy Jensen, who took part with her now 6-year-old daughter, said the study was a wake-up call.

She says “I didn’t realize how much Elizabeth was watching and how much she was watching on her own”

Jensen said her daughter’s behavior improved after making changes, and she continues to control what Elizabeth and her 2-year-old brother watch. She also decided to replace most of Elizabeth’s TV time with games, art and outdoor fun.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

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