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February 24, 2009

Chalk up another victory for those critical of social networking.

After having linked websites like Facebook, Orkut and Twitter to depression, Internet addiction and aggression, a scientist is now claiming that they damage youngsters' brains.

Yes, you read right -- according to website, Oxford University neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield has claimed that too many online acitivities can re-programme the brain, thereby causing abnormal behaviour.

In other words, youngsters who are addicted to surfing the Internet begin to lose touch with the outside world and have trouble communicating with real people and focusing on external issues. Short attention spans, the need for instant gratification and self-centred behaviour are all patterns encouraged by extended exposure to social networking, according to Greenfield.

And she's not the only one who is pointing a finger in the direction of websites. The BBC recently reported via its website that networking online can harm one's health. Expert Dr Aric Sigman pointed out that people's face-to-face interactions are less frequent since the advent of electronic media and that this leaves their social skills severely hampered. This, in turn, can lead to loneliness, depression and a host of health-related issues, including dementia, heart disease and strokes.

And it's not just computers that are being blamed. Greenfield further goes on to state that video games and television shows may also contribute to the damage. "My fear is that these technologies are infantilising the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment," she is quoted as saying.

In her argument, Greenfield has also mentioned that autistic individuals, who usually have trouble with communication and social situations, are at ease using computers. So it could also be possible that extended exposure to the computer or television screens is hampering social skills and causing an increase in the diagnosis of autism.

A new Taiwanese study has also conducted research to link agressive behaviour in teens to social networking, According to a team led by Chih-Hung Ko, MD, from Kaohsiung Medical University, playing video games and visiting sexually oriented websites could provoke youngsters to "observe, experience and try aggressive behaviors resulting in positive outcome, (such as) identification in a group, being a hero or winning in games."

What do you think of these theories? Post your thoughts, experiences and opinions in this regard on the messageboard below.

Inputs:,, ANI

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