Square Eyes

Spending too long in front of a screen of one kind or another can often be a cause for rebuke. I know from experience. And if the number of screens we look at is a cause of concern for you, then there hasn’t been a worst time in history for that than right now, because screens are everywhere – they’re in our pockets, in our living rooms, on our desks…

Screens allow us to perform tasks that would have been simply inconceivable before1: One can visit the British Library without ever going to London, see and chat to relatives in a foreign country without having to travel, play with friends when they can’t physically be with us, access news of events anywhere in the world synchronously as the events develop. Screens bring the information to us, which, as I think anyone would agree, is much better than the alternative.

Despite all this, screens tend to receive a very bad press. Baroness Greenfield recently expressed2 her concern that spending too long in front of a screen can result in addictive behaviour, “obsessional use” and neurological changes in the brain.

What Baroness Greenfield does not mention is that almost any human activity can result in addictive and obsessive behaviour – from eating chocolate to jogging – and that, whenever we master a new skill or acquire new knowledge, neurological changes take place in our brains: it’s called learning.
Continue reading