It appears that the use of digital devices changes how children perceive the world as a new study has found that pre-schoolers who frequently use tablet or mobile devices often tend to miss the forest for the trees.
People can be different in whether they typically see the forest or the trees, but the dominant attentional mode is focusing first on the whole, and then on the details. This is the same with children. Or so it has been until now.
Children using mobile devices differ in this skill as they tend to focus more on the details and less on the big picture, showed the new study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
“Focusing on the global picture helps us in perceiving the world in meaningful, coherent patterns, and not just as a bunch of unrelated spots,” said first author of the study Veronika Konok from Eotvos Lorand University (ELTE) in Budapest, Hungary.
“We automatically process the global pattern even if we intend to pay attention only to the details.”
For the study, the researchers recruited pre-schoolers regardless they use mobile devices or not and investigated if a short game on tablet causes detail-focused attention in short term.
“Interestingly, 6 minutes of playing with a balloon-shooting game was enough to induce a detail-focused attentional style in a consecutive task. In contrast, children who played with a non-digital game (a whack-a-mole game) showed the typical global focus,” said Adam Miklosi from ELTE.
The results showed that the type of experiences children meet matters much, because at this age the brain is very plastic. So such massive early exposure may have a significant long-term effect.
“The atypical attentional style in mobile user children is not necessarily bad, but different for sure, and we cannot ignore this — for example in pedagogy,” said Krisztina Liszkai-Peres from ELTE, a co-worker of the group and second author of the publication.
These children probably need a new way of presenting educational material.
As the researchers pointed out, people who pay attention to details are more skillful at analytic thinking, but less creative and have weaker social skills.
Therefore, it is possible that — if there will be no change in this trend — among children of the new generation there will be more scientific thinker and less artistic or social ones, and this will probably change the world we live in.