Digital Natives and Cognitive Development

The Digital Media class is on the final stretch of the semester.  Our last assignment is a research paper on a past, present or emerging media and its influence( or decline) in society today. There are many areas to choose from in our multimedia  world.

We are in the midst of a tidal wave of digital consumerism.  While I grew up in a time when broadcast TV, books, and newspapers were the major sources of information, digital natives grew up learning through the computer and the internet.

Much has been argued about the effects of the digital world on a child’s developing brain;  the pros and cons abound.  Does digital literacy lead to cognitive deficiencies in other areas such as language and social skills?  How do non-digitally infused teachers create connections with a  digitally immersed student? Has social media, gaming, and video streaming altered children’s abilities to focus, concentrate and retain information?

Such questions are being studied by experts in a wide range of human development fields.  My approach will be to examine both the pros and cons of digital immersion.  I will attempt to synthesize the current information and predominant theories into a path that points to the future of the effects of living in a digital world.  Lastly I will put forth my ideas on how I feel we should deal with this new era of shifting dimensions in cognitive development.

Some of my sources are listed below.  A brief synopsis will tell why I think they are of importance.  I will also discuss what, if any, downfalls I may see in their information.

Columbia Universityibrain

This article has a balanced approach on describing the effects of digital media on the young brain.  It speaks plainly on how digital media affects brains and what changes occur cognitively, socially, and emotionally.  It sources a wide range of supporting material via hyperlinks. It’s a rather short, general synopsis, but is a good starting point for research.


New York Times

This is a profile piece.  It talks abBrain-articleLarge-v2out children and teens growing up completely digitally wired.

The piece follows the personal struggles of one students apparent addiction to digital media.  The boy is held as an example of most teens attitudes and beliefs about a digital life.

Through his eyes we catch a glimpse of how most teens lives are affected by technology.  It provides good perspective for those that are not so digitally inclined. There are not a great deal of facts, but a good perspective piece.

PBS News Hour

A podcast from PBS, this interview shows succinctly how multitasking is a way of life for digitally raised people.


Hearing the actual words and interactions between host and subject gives us a clear sense of being around the chaotic swirl of never-ending informational streaming in the lives of the modern teen.  It’s apparent they know of no other way.  Their parents seem out of touch and books are a thing of the past.  Mainly this is supportive material with a few good nuggets of quotable lines.

Psychology Today

Written by a P.H.D., this article comes from an expert’s perspective. He focuses on digitally developed brains and attention span.  He also quotes Nicholas Carr whom we’ve discussed in earlier posts.

Jim Taylor, P.H.D.

Often times we see an ambiguity about exactly what is happening with new technology.  This article offers a balanced approach of the pros and cons of our digital experience in the world.  Its main focus is on the mental process of attention.  Digitally there is a shift in the way  we use attention and this puts forth ideas on the various aspects of that change.

 Stay tuned as we’ll be presenting our research in the virtual world known as Second Life.  


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