Home' Teacher : August 2010 Contents 50 TEACHER AUGUST 2010
of other electronic media was also consid-
ered. Thus, specific headache-related effects
of frequency of calling with mobile phones,
working with computers, watching televi-
sion (or) videos or playing with game con-
soles were not found.'
So our mobile-thumbing, headphone-
wearing students browsing the web using
a computer while watching television are
okay, and probably the world's best gen-
eration of multi-taskers. Apparently not,
according to Stanford University research-
ers Eyal Ophir, Clifford Nass and Anthony
Wagner, whose research reported last year
suggests all this media multi-tasking actu-
ally impairs cognitive control.
Ophir, Nass and Wagner took a sample of
100 students, half of them heavy media multi-
taskers and half of them not, and had them
take three tests. Their heavy media multi-
taskers were more susceptible to interference
from irrelevant environmental stimuli and
from irrelevant representations in memory.
Ophir, Nass and Wagner had their heavy
and light multi-taskers take a first test of
task-switching ability, a second test that
required them to remember when a letter
made a repeat appearance, and a third test
to identify even and odd digits, and vowel
and consonant letters. The heavy multi-
taskers underperformed the light multi-
taskers every time.
'The high multi-taskers a re always draw-
ing from all the information in front of them,'
explains Ophir. 'They can't keep things sepa-
rate in their minds.'
Adds Wagner, 'When they're in situations
where there are multiple sources of infor-
mation coming from the external world or
emerging out of memory, they're not able
to filter out what's not relevant to their cur-
rent goal. That failu re to filter means they're
slowed down by that irrelevant information.'
So what can we learn from the current
research? TV watching appears to be bad,
although not all research supports that con-
clusion. The excessive use of digital devices
appears to be linked to obesity, but whether
it has long-lasting adverse effects on physi-
cal health in terms of increased body mass
index, decreased physical activity and
things like tiredness, stress, concentration
difficulties sleep disturbances and headache
remains a moot point.
There's little to vindicate either Pollyanna
or Jeremiah, since ICT, it seems, has good
and bad effects. If the research seems equiv-
ocal, one thing is certain: fu rther research
Steve Holden is Editor in Chief --
Magazines at ACER Press.
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(1998). Children's television viewing, body
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(2009). The Horizon Report. Austin,
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Milde-Busch, A., von Kries, R. Thomas,
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of electronic media and prevalence of
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population -based cross-sectional study.
BMC Neurology. 10: 12.
Ophir, E., Nass, C. & Wagner, A. (2009).
Cognitive control in media multi-taskers.
Proceedings of the National Academy of
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Pagani, L. , Fitzpatrick, C . , Barnett, T. &
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Robinson , T. (1999). Reducing children's
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Americ an Medical Association. 282:1,561-
So our mobile-thumbing,
students browsing the
web using a computer
while watching television
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