Is broadband re-wiring our brains?

photo of woman asleep in front of laptop

Monday, 5 August, 2019

In 2018, scientific research claimed that people with broadband internet were more likely to suffer sleep deprivation than those without.

The researchers said that having faster broadband internet reduced sleep and sleep quality. It also created a tendency to sleep for less time than is healthy.

This is important, because lack of sleep is linked to many adverse events including car crashes, accidents at work and obesity.

So we should all keep an eye on our use of digital devices.

Having said that, we don’t need to disconnect from them completely. Nobody wants to live without the internet, and being online is possible without damaging our health.

However, other scientists now suggest the internet might actually be changing our brains…

Brain of Britain (and overseas)

A paper recently published in the leading journal World Psychiatry claims our use of the internet may be changing how we think, remember and behave.

These changes could affect many aspects of our lives, from the way we read and learn to how we make friends. And they may be long-term or even permanent.

We all know there are other dangers online, from social media trolls and bullying to cyber-crime.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we should all cancel our broadband internet contracts and go offline. For most of us, the very idea of living without broadband access is terrifying.

Because while there are dangers to look out for, the benefits of time spent online outweigh them.

What has the internet ever done for us?

Well, where should we start?

There are obvious advantages to being online, like the ability to answer almost any question immediately, and communication with people in any country.

Social media connects us regardless of time zones and geographical (or even cultural) differences.

The internet is full of fascinating information and study materials, and it seems reasonable to think being online could benefit the brain.

It’s also given us the internet of things, which makes life easier and frees up time. Crucially, it gives us more time to enjoy online activities like memes and cute cat pictures.

It seems unlikely that we need less broadband internet connectivity. What we probably do need is to use the internet more thoughtfully and critically.

But then that’s true of all media.

Watching TV, listening to the radio or even reading books without thinking about possible sources and biases is just as dangerous.

Also, the internet is simply too powerful to escape. The internet of things expands daily, and artificial intelligence is improving everything from medicine to cyber-security.

New video games (which some scientists believe enhance children’s learning) are released on a daily basis. And everything from banking to shopping can be completed online.

So yes, the internet can be dangerous, and its effects may be important. But it’s also a fascinating place full of potential and benefit.

What makes the difference? Quite simply, the way we choose to use it.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!