BERLIN – Dr. Manfred Spitzer knows that people find his arguments provocative. In his first book, he warned parents of the very real dangers of letting their children spend too much time in front of the TV. Now, in a second book called Digitale Demenz [Digital Dementia], he’s telling them that teaching young kids finger-counting games is much better for them than letting them explore on a laptop.
Spitzer, 54, may be a member of the slide-rule generation that learned multiplication tables by heart, but his work as a neuropsychiatrist has shown him that when young children spend too much time using a computer, their brain development suffers and that the deficits are irreversible and cannot be made up for later in life.
South Korean doctors were the first to describe this phenomenon, and dubbed it digital dementia – whence the title of Spitzer’s book. Simplistically, the message can be summed up this way: the Internet makes you dumb. And it is of course a message that outrages all those who feel utterly comfortable in the digital world. In the aftermath of the publication of Spitzer’s book, they have lost no time venting their wrath across Germany.
And yet Spitzer has accumulated a wealth of scientific information that gives his thesis solid underpinnings, and the studies and data he draws on offer more than enough room for consternation.