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​Paula Poundstone: Electronics and kids' brains don't mix

Are we all spending too much time looking at our screens
Paula Poundstone: Stop flat-screen addiction! 02:36

Are we all spending too much time looking at screens? A question for contributor Paula Poundstone:

Almost everyone in our country is addicted to electronics, and riddled with denial.

When I talk to people about it, they get defensive. They say it's not addiction, it's just something they enjoy.

I love to play ping-pong, I love to practice the drums, I love to tap dance. But I have never, even once, tried to figure out how to do any one of those things, while driving, in such a way that the cops couldn't see. Because I am not addicted to those activities, I just enjoy them, and there's a huge difference.

Screen devices wreak havoc with the brain's frontal lobe. Diagnosis of ADHD in our children has taken a steep rise since the proliferation of screen devices.

Yet, even when presented with that information, parents often won't hear of protecting their kids from the harmful effects of screen devices. "Kids love them!" they say. Yes, they do, and kids would love heroin if we gave it to them. I'm told that after the initial vomiting stage it can be a hoot!

We didn't know this when we first brought these shiny new toys into homes. But, now, we do know. Still, adults aren't doing anything about it. Why? Because we're addicted. Addiction hampers judgment.

You see it. Everywhere you look people are staring at their flat things. We're terrified of being bored. No one drifts or wonders. If Robert Frost had lived today he would have written, "Whose woods are these? I think I'll Google it."

Screens are tearing away our real connections. Ads for "family cars" show every family member on a different device. Applebees, Chili's, Olive Garden and some IHOPs are putting tablets on their tables. These restaurants claim they are providing tablets just to make ordering easier. Well, gee, if saying, "May I please have chicken fingers?" is too difficult for our young ones, wouldn't we want to work on that?

The tech industry has profited from the "Every child must have a laptop in the classroom" push, but education hasn't. Research shows that the brain retains information better read from paper than from a screen, and students who take notes by hand are more successful on tests than those who type their notes on a computer.

Yet, art, music, sports, play, healthy meals and green space -- things we know help the developing brain -- are on the chopping block of school districts' budgets annually.

Even knowing this, at the suggestion that we get screen devices out of our classrooms and away from our children, people gasp, "But they'll need them for the world of the future!"

Our children will need fully-functioning brains for the world of the future. Let's put that first.

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