Are Kids Damaging Their Brains By Using Too Much Technology?

60 Minutes report outlines study with National Institutes of Health that will look at effect of screen time on young people’s brains, moods and health.

Leave a Comment
Are Kids Damaging Their Brains By Using Too Much Technology?

A multi-ethic group of elementary age children are sitting in the computer lab and are looking at a tablet together.

Here’s a cheerful holiday thought for all those parents out there who have bought or will buy new phones, tablets or other pieces of technology for their kids this holiday season. And, while we all know Santa Claus does what he can to fill every kid’s wish list, he might think twice about too much technology.

The problem, according to a recent 60 Minutes report, is that all that technology could be causing permanent damage to the brains of young people.

According to the 60 Minutes report, the federal government, through the National Institutes of Health, has launched “the most ambitious study of adolescent brain development ever attempted.”

The study will also look at how all that texting, game-playing and selfie taking could be affecting young people’s emotional development and mental health.

Scanning Kids’ Brains

“At 21 sites across the country scientists have begun interviewing nine- and 10-year-olds and scanning their brains,” according to the 60 Minutes report. “They’ll follow more than 11,000 kids for a decade, and spend $300 million doing it.”

The first wave of data from brain scans of 4,500 participants is in and it has scientists “intrigued,” according to the report. The MRIs found “significant differences in the brains of some kids who use smartphones, tablets, and video games more than seven hours a day.”

The MRIs found “significant differences in the brains of some kids who use smartphones, tablets, and video games more than seven hours a day.”

The original plan for the study called for a focus on tobacco, marijuana and other drugs, says Dr. Gaya Dowling of the National Institutes of Health, but screen time was added later in the discussion.

Imagine that: scientists are grouping screen time in with drugs and figuring out which of these are the most detrimental to young people’s long-term health.

That should scare those of you who scroll through your Twitter feeds while standing at the urinal and not because someone could be smoking in the next stall.

“The colors [on the initial wave of scans] show differences in the nine- and 10-year-olds’ brains,” Dowling told Anderson Cooper.

“The red color represents premature thinning of the cortex. That’s the wrinkly outermost layer of the brain that processes information from the five senses. That’s typically thought to be a maturational process.

“What we would expect to see later is happening a little bit earlier. We don’t know if it’s being caused by the screen time. We don’t know yet if it’s a bad thing. It won’t be until we follow them over time that we will see if there are outcomes that are associated with the differences that we’re seeing in this single snapshot,” she said.

The interviews and data from the NIH study have already revealed something else: kids who spend more than two hours a day on screens got lower scores on thinking and language tests.

Limit Your Kids’ Screen Time

The study isn’t likely to examine the effects of staring at a massive Times Square billboard for hours on end, for example, or the long-term concerns of trying to figure out which button will actually start the all-important video conference with your most important customer.

It’s certainly premature to say kids’ brains are being ruined by too much technology, and we’ve all heard about how cell phones could be giving us cancer and how we’re all going to go deaf early because of playing our music too loud and that this particular food will kill you, until another study says it won’t.

Science is, for lack of a better term, an inexact science, so this shouldn’t mean you go around the house and round up all that tech from your kids a la the Grinch on Christmas Eve.

But it’s certainly something to consider when you’re weighing whether to allow Santa to give your kid a VR helmet to help him or her become a Fortnite expert.

As with most other things, the moral of this story is simple: Everything in moderation. That’s why I don’t drink egg nog or eat slices of fruit cake in the summer. As Cookie Monster now says about his favorite treats, “cookies are a sometimes food.”

I read a lot of stories about how baseball is dying because, not only are kids no longer watching the games, but they’re not even playing it. They’d rather sit in front of a screen and play a virtual version of the game.

These two things are not unrelated and certainly have something to do with the obesity epidemic among our youngest people. Could it be there’s a simple solution to all of these issues?

Here’s the full 60 Minutes segment to let you decide for yourself:

About the Author


Craig MacCormack is the former executive editor of Commercial Integrator (2011-2021). He's a veteran journalist with more than 25 years of experience covering local and national news and sports as well as architecture and engineering before joining Commercial Integrator.

Commercial Integrator Magazine

Read More Articles Like This… With A FREE Subscription

Commercial Integrator is dedicated to addressing the technological and business needs of professional integrators who serve the small and midsize business market. Whether you design, sell, service, or install… work on offices, churches, hospitals, schools or restaurants, Commercial Integrator is the dedicated resource you need.


  • I agree that to a certain point that technology can damage brains if used in extreme excesses. There is not much critical thinking or problem solving related to video games. There are certain games designed to challenge the human mind, but who is really interested in those? Most would more than likely find them considerably boring. I tend not to play utterly mindless type games, I enjoy those that do challenge one’s mind to a certain extent. Tactical role playing games are a personal favorite to engage one’s mind, in that style of game one does need to think of strategy to beat the opponent, you cannot mindlessly walk in and expect to win.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *