The Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, Baroness Greenfield, has expressed great concern about the impact social networking websites is having on the developing brains of young people in the UK.
Susan Greenfield, who is also a leading figure in the domain of neurology working at Oxford University, said that websites like Facebook, Myspace or Bebo, encouraged instant gratification, shortened attention spans and make young persons more self-centered.
This dumbing down process essentially "infantilised" children and teenagers' minds by exposing them to "buzzing noise and bright lights", sensationalism and making them unlikely to empathise with other persons through a "rewiring" of the brain's stucture.
She stated: "We know how small babies need constant reassurance that they exist. 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".
This is made more acute by the sites' demand for personal profiles which could mean that a generation is growing up trying to build a picture of themselves which is more often than not remote from their true selves.
Baroness Greenfield added that children who spend a lot of time interacting with others online may lack the necessary communication skills when having to deal in person with others. She should be concerned : Facebook and Myspace altogether have around 350 million users worldwide.
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Ironically, the comments were made by the Baroness, during a House of Lords debate surrounding social networking and only days after the government advertised a job for a £160,000 director of digital Engagement which would, amongst over things, "develop a strategy and implementation plan for extending digital engagement across Government".