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As online Psychology students, you will continuously be engaging with technology to support your learning in this course. Doubtless, you are aware of some of the debates regarding technology and education:

  • Are the internet and video games a distraction from learning?
  • Does technology reduce the need for memory?
  • Are virtual reality video games harmful?

As with all questions of this nature, the answer is going to be “It depends.”  Sweeping statements have been made in the popular press that the internet generally, and social media and video games more specifically, are having a huge and negative impact on our brains.  As you will be using all of these during the course, we can be sure that this is not true!  This supposition has been questioned in several more thoughtful articles which point out the lack of scientific basis for this belief.

Psychology students need to be critical thinkers and rationally assess arguments that are presented to them: What is the context? What is the bias of the researcher? How was the sample selected? What controls were applied? For example, while some studies suggest that violent video games do result in violent behaviour, it also depends on the social context in which these sorts of games are played. A study by Seth Gitter and colleagues showed that if participants were asked to play a violent video game with a definite goal in mind (for example, protecting a friend in a zombie game), they showed reduced levels of aggressive behaviour compared to participants who were asked to kill as many zombies as possible. Any time a statement seems right, there is a good chance there is another side to the story.

It is not the existence of the internet, technology and social media that poses a threat to learning, but the mistaken idea that they are a substitute for memory and knowledge. As this article by Daisy Christodoulou points out, we cannot think critically about an issue if we don’t know the basic facts. We need our memories, our reflections and our knowledge.

This article was inspired by Dr Laura Swash.

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