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‘Digital Dementia’ surging among young electronics users

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KANSAS CITY, Kan.-- The overuse of electronics at a young age is leading to a surge in what some doctors are calling "Digital Dementia". The demand for anything digital is at an all-time high.

"I'm on my phone a lot, probably all day. I use the Playstation 3 every morning and the computer I use at night," 14-year-old David Shelley said.

In the Shelley household, there are five kids and countless electronics.

"They sort of just roam from one electronic device to the next," dad Jeff Shelley said.

These kids are on track to develop what some doctors are calling "digital dementia", characterized as a deterioration of brain function from overusing digital technology.

Symptoms include forgetting details, like phone numbers, shortened attention spans and loss of emotions.

"It's kind of a like a use it or lose it kind of thing especially in a developing brain," said Dr. Jennifer Prohaska, a psychologist at the University of Kansas Hospital.

She said it's the result of unbalanced brain development. Excess use of technology can inhibit the right brain, responsible for concentration and emotional thoughts.

"It's kind of like if you just trained and worked out on one leg and you don't work out on the other," she said. "You can get along in life, but it's not efficient."

Prohaska reports the teenage years are a critical stage and hiding behind a glass screen can be detrimental.

"What can happen with that is we start to limit our social interaction and especially in a developing brain that's when we start to read behavioral cues or facial cues or learn how to initiate conversation," Prohaska said.

The key is to limit how much time is spent typing and surfing.

"We've recently just taken everything away until they could start showing more ability to remember things, which they weren't too happy about," Jeff Shelley said.

Dr. Prohaska admitted there haven't been enough studies done to predict the long term effect of using so much technology.

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