News & Politics

Can't Remember Your Own Phone Number? You Might Have Digital Dementia

You could be stunting your development or speeding your demise by spending too many hours a day on that device.

The Blackberry Torch 9800 smartphone.

South Korean and German doctors are warning of a new phenomenon that is known as “digital dementia.”

The Telegraph (UK) notes that South Korean doctor Byun Gi-won told a newspaper that “over-use of smartphones and game devices hampers the balanced development of the brain...Heavy users are likely to develop the left side of their brains, leaving the right side untapped or underdeveloped.”

The right side of the brain is responsible for concentration. Failure in development of that side of the brain could lead to early dementia in 15 percent of heavy-users of smartphones, according to The Telegraph. Overuse of the devices could also lead to emotional underdevelopment, with children feeling the affects of it more because of their still-developing brains.

The situation could worsen. 18.4% of people in South Korea between the ages of 10 and 19 report using their smartphone for over seven hours a day. That’s an increase of about seven percent from the numbers reported last year.

More than 67 percent of people in South Korea have smartphones, the highest number in the world. Sixty-four percent of teenagers in South Korea possess smartphones.

Doctors in South Korea aren’t the only ones sounding the alarm on “digital dementia.” The Telegraph notes that German scientist Manfred Spitzer published a book last year that “warned parents and teachers of the dangers of allowing children to spend too much time on a laptop, mobile phone or other electronic devices.”

Spitzer said that brain development problems are irreversible and has called for digital media to be barred from German classrooms because children might become “addicted.”


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.