Developmental Area Talk by Dr Manfred Spitzer
Mon, March 3, 2014 • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM • Hakes Library, SEA 1.332
Professor Manfred Spitzer; Department of Psychiatry, University of Ulm and the Transfer Center for Neurosciences and Learning
Many of us see the internet as a gift replete with intellectual vitamins. And our kids love to be on line: A 2013 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) documents critically that “Today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices”1. Pulling no punches, AAP goes on to recommend that: “parents establish ‘screen-free’ zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers or video games in children’s bedrooms, and by turning off the TV during dinner. Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. It is important for kids to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play.” Furthermore, “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age two. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”
The topic – a clarification of the risks and side effects associated with today’s digital media – will be the focus of Manfred Spitzer’s presentation. Dr Manfred Spitzer, from Freiberg, Harvard, Oregon and currently, the Psychiatric University Hospital and the Transfer Center for Neurosciences and Learning (ZNL) in Ulm, Germany, is an international authority of the subject of digital media (cell phones, tablets, computers, television) and their effect on a child’s developing brain. Dr. Spitzer, a psychiatrist, psychologist and neuroscientist, is the author of “Digital Dementia: What We and Our Children are Doing to our Minds.”2 As described in his book, and from his vantage and his research, he will present a body of evidence that shows that too much time with these devices leads to problematic brain development – especially in young children. Problematic brain development that is irreversible.
The issue is not at all “academic.” For example, as many schools around the nation “gear up” with the latest computer technology, in Silicon Valley, a school for young children, “the Waldorf School of the Peninsula” flourishes by educating the children of employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard with a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and creative, hands-on tasks rather than high tech devices.3 Spitzer’s presentation will clarify that digitalizing classrooms have a negative effect on learning, especially in young children. The neuroplastic capacity of their brains is undermined, and the multi-tasking that comes with smart phones, tablets and computers inhibits concentration and impedes the development of the right side of the brain. And finally, “using digital media in kindergarten or primary school is actually a way of getting children addicted.”
Dr. Spitzer will go on to outline alternatives.
Regarding Manfred Spitzer: A graduate of the University of Freiburg, Dr. Spitzer has additionally worked at Heidelberg, Harvard, and the University of Oregon. Widely published in neuroscience, learning, and psychiatry, author of numerous texts and a well-regarded speaker (in English as well as German), he is host of the German public television show “Geist und Gehirn” (“Mind and Brain” – available on YouTube). Additionally, Dr. Spitzer is recipient of the1992 DGPPN Duphar Research Award of the German Society for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Neurology; the 2002 Cogito Prize of the Cogito Foundation; and the 2010 Science Prize of the Margrit Egnér Foundation. He is father of six children.
2. Spitzer, Manfred. Digitale Demenz, Droemer, 2012 (Spanish Edition, Demencia Digital, Ediciones B, 2013)