Infobesity and Working Memory
An interesting read for parents in the tech age by Dr Kristy Goodwin titled ‘Teaching in the Age of Digital Distraction’. Dr Goodwin covers many topics, one of which was the concept of Infobesity.
According to macmillandictionary.com Infobesity is ‘the condition of continually consuming large amounts of information, especially when this has a negative effect on a person’s well-being and ability to concentrate’.
Our memory capacity and skills are changing because of technology. Children are living in an age of infobesity. They are digesting a huge amount of information every day. In 2011, D.J. Levitin stated that we were consuming five times more information on a daily basis than we were in 1986 (this is the equivalent of about 174 newspapers worth of data everyday). Imagine what the figure is now in 2018!
Information has become cheap, because it is readily available. The phrase ‘just Google it…” has become part of everyday conversations. Because of this, young people aren’t committing things to memory. Instead they are engaging in cognitive offloading – handing things over to technology that they would normally memorise. Young people often can’t recall information, but they can tell you how to search for the answers on Google, including the key phrases. This cognitive off-loading may result in under-developed reasoning and memory skills. It is worth noting though that
cognitive off-loading can free up young people’s cognitive resources for other important, high order thinking skills.
Dr Kristy Goodwin has some practical tips for developing children’s working memory skills in the digital age:
Respond to information: ask them questions about what they are engaged in. This can help to stop the technology ‘zombie’ effect.
Enjoy music, singing and dance: teach young people fun songs and rhymes to build their working memory
Play puzzles: puzzles can build working memory in a fun context. Strategy and logic games are great for older kids.
Play physical, board, card or video games: in these scenarios young people have to abide by a set of rules. This requires working memory and impulse control skills
Tell stories: Let them listen to and tell stories. Audiobooks are great. This can help to develop working memory.
Read real books: assist with memory recall
Play in an unstructured way, especially outdoors: it’s children’s most natural way to learn
Make a mental list: challenge kids to remember part of your shopping list and increase the number of items over time.
Do organic searches: don’t always rely on Google. Try and commit some things to memory.
Engage in physical activity: it stimulates the brain
Learn a new language or an instrument: helps with working memory skills.
Teach and practice mindfulness and/or meditation: to quieten the outside world and try to experience things firsthand.
There are many more strategies available about how to improve young people’s working memory skills, this is just a snapshot. If you would like to read about this further Dr Kirsty Goodwin has a webpage, Facebook page and a book: