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do smart phones make kids dumber

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/2/2014 Category: Education
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 762 times Debate No: 66203
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (1)
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Last year the Librarian of Congress warned that texting was responsible for a drastic decline in American sentences, but that opinion wasn't backed up by any scientific evidence. Now, a team of Australian psychologists has come a step closer to proving that mobile phones are destroying our ability to think. The researchers show that children who use mobile phones respond to higher-level cognitive tasks faster, but less accurately, than those who don't.

94% of Australians use cell phones, and the cognitive psychologists were testing for the negative effects of exposure to mobile phone radiation, especially among children, whose brains are still developing. In addition to fears that cell phones cause cancer, one earlier study found that school-age children who had been exposed to mobile phones as infants or in utero were almost twice as likely to be hyperactive or disruptive as those whose parents used land lines.

The good news is that radio waves from mobile phones won't fry young brains or turn kids into delinquents. The bad news is, cell phones actually make children dumb (M. J. Abramson, G. P. Benke, C. Dimitriadis, I. O. Inyang, M. R. Sim, R. S. Wolfe, and R. J. Croft, "Mobile telephone use is associated with changes in cognitive function in young adolescents" Bioelectromagnetics 30.6 [early view, August, 2009]).

Of the 317 seventh-graders who participated in the Australian study, 77% owned their own mobile phone and almost all the rest had used one. The children reported an average of eight calls and eight text messages a week, with heavy users logging as many as fifteen. Even though these figures seem low -- what 13-year-old would acknowledge receiving so few texts? -- those who used cell phones more responded to a battery of cognitive tests much faster, and much less accurately, than those who seldom called or texted, or those who didn't use mobiles at all.

Specifically, the psychologists found that as mobile phone use increased, children learned to perform tasks more quickly, but their ability to remember things declined: "The accuracy of working memory was poorer, reaction time for a simple learning task shorter, associative learning response time shorter and accuracy poorer." Findings were the same whether children called or texted, and since texting involves very little exposure to radiation, this suggests that it's the act of phoning, not the radiation, that accounts for decreased cognitive ability.

The researchers went so far as to suggest that mobile phone use also correlates with impulsivity, and that cell phone utilities like 'predictive texting' actually condition children to favor speed over accuracy. (For other research on texting, click here and here; for the impact of texting on literature, click here; for its impact on politics, click here; for its impact on language development, click here).

But reports that cell phones are destroying our brains are premature. Even the Australian researchers acknowledge that it might be unwise to depend on the accounts of thirteen year olds for accurate information about how many calls or texts they receive each week. Nor is it reasonable to conclude that mobile phones cause children to respond faster to assigned tasks (ever try to get a cell-phone-enabled thirteen year old to do their homework in a hurry?) or to make their answers less accurate (they can text perfectly without looking at the keyboard; can you?).


I will accept this debate!!!!!! Lets begin!!!!!!!
Debate Round No. 1


jamesc123 forfeited this round.


I win!!!!!!!!!!!
Debate Round No. 2


Dear inventors, software designers, and other assorted geniuses (or is that genii?), responsible for all the amazing advances that make our lives so much easier:

Please stop. Seriously, please stop right now. All this "help" you're offering is causing me to devolve, rapidly.

Did you see that movie "Benjamin Button," where Brad Pitt just kept growing younger? Well, that's what's happening to me, but just inside my brain, involving hundreds of simple tasks that I used to know how to do.

I realized all of this a few weeks ago, when my wife asked me, as a sign of love and dedication, if I knew her cell phone number by heart.

I looked this beautiful woman straight in the eye, and I guessed . . . wrong. Way wrong.

But of course I couldn't remember her number, because I've never known it. From our first date, she's been a name in my cell phone. In fact, if you hung me over a pit of live crocodiles I couldn't remember seven digits in a row anymore.

I've lost that ability because I don't need it. The machines do it for me. [And also, that's the part of my brain that's now used for fantasy football.]

Without my computer "assistance," I often end up "Porky Pig-ging it" -- by which I mean trying to spell a word, realizing I can't, before eventually just choosing a completely different word.

I tried to spell "spatula" for eight minutes the other day, before finally settling on "Food Picker Upper Thingy." And if typing something without spellcheck is hard, writing things out by hand -- that is now all but impossible for me. I haven't given my mother a proper birthday card in years, because I don't trust myself to successfully hand-write "Luv Ya Bunches!" anymore.

I've done the math on this. Well, that's actually not true, I have an app on my phone that does stuff like math for me . . . but anyway, I've looked at that app, and it tells me, based on the rate of invention, and my rate of atrophy when it comes to simple tasks, that at the current pace I'll be reduced to a slobbering infant within six years.

So please, innovators, I beg of you, stop now. My very life depends on it.


I miss understood the sides of the argument and I actually was on the mindset supporting the thesis!!!!!!! Lets mark it as a tie!!!!!!
Debate Round No. 3


kids who have phones are becoming socially dumb. They think that they are more connected to the world and their friends all around the world. Yet actually kids are less connected than ever. Instead of talking with people in person they would rather type them messages. Kids can walk down the halls at school talking to the kids right next to them without ever saying a word. More and more kids are becoming less involved in the world and more and more involved in their phones and technical deviceces


Agreed, tie I guess???
Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Tommy.leadbetter 2 years ago
No. Simple answer. Does playing football make you dumb? No. Does playing football 24-7 make you dumb? Probably. Use anything in excess and it has a negative effect. Using a smartphone to watch a documentary and research would not make you dumb. Is all about context.

In my view, our culture is making kids dumb. To say phones are is just to distract from the real issue.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by lannan13 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: It's a tie then?