Contrary to claims by British scientist Susan Greenfield that prolonged computer use can trigger "autistic-like traits" and aggression, the internet probably isn’t rotting youths' minds, experts say. A new editorial in the British Medical Journal argues that there isn't enough research to show that intense internet and computer use harms adolescent brains.
Scientists at University College London and the University of Oxford write in BMJ that many of these claims by Greenfield, a senior research fellow at Lincoln College Oxford, aren't backed by scientific data or neuroscience studies. "Despite calls for her to publish these claims in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, where clinical researchers can check how well they are supported by evidence, this has not happened, and the claims have largely been aired in the media," they write.
The claims aren't backed by scientific data
Greenfield has frequently spoken out about the negative effects posed by internet use and social media. She believes that social networking sites lead to poor interpersonal interactions, less empathy, and low personal identity. Greenfield has also stated that playing too many computer games can lead to a shorter attention span and aggression, while online interaction may be a trigger for autism.
The researchers feel that Greenfield's assertions are confusing the public, since they sometimes directly contradict what previous research has found. For example, they say that social networking "has been found to enhance existing friendships and the quality of relationships, although some individuals benefit more than others." There are concerns over prolonged internet use, but Greenfield’s claims specifically muddy the issue.