In the latest health scare regarding the internet, scientists at Oxford University have warned that children who spend too much time on social networks online could suffer from personality and brain disorders.
Susan Greenfield, a neurologist at Oxford University has claimed that social network sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter can physically “rewire” children’s brains to change their personality.
Ms Greenfield said that too much time spent online would cause children to become more selfish and would severely reduce their attention spans.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Ms Greenfield said: “My fear is that these technologies are infantilising the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.”
Ms Greenfield went on to suggest that the recent rise in child autism could be a direct result of children spending too much time online on popular social networks such as Bebo.
As if it weren’t bad enough that time spent in front of the computer has been demonised and held responsible for increases in violent crime, the corruption of youth and the dissolution of the English language, now it is being promoted as a cause of autism.
One of the key problems with Ms Greenfield’s line of reasoning is that it isn’t actually backed up with any form of scientific evidence.
Ms Greenfield’s opinions are based purely on hypothesis and have yet to be tested by any research.
Social networks are the new fad, and as the likes of Bebo and Facebook grow in dominance, so too do their critics become more extreme.
The last wave of hysteria was over the corrupting influence videogames held over children, inciting violence.
The latest research has actually shown videogames to be beneficial to children, developing better cognitive capacity, problem solving skills, spatial awareness and coordination.
Far from damaging children, social networks help with cohesive social integration; and without some substantive scientific research, the suggestion of autistic repercussions from spending time on social networks, is questionable at best, ludicrous otherwise.