back to article Korean doctors: Smartphones really ARE doing your head in

Forget Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training, prolonged exposure to digital devices is actually putting children at risk of early onset dementia, at least according to South Korean doctors. Cases of memory and attention disorders are apparently increasing in gadget-crazy South Korea, one of the most technologically advanced nations on …


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  1. Turtle

    As Dangerous As...

    Will Smartphone Dementia turn out to be yet another scourge of the modern world, like Fan Death? Here's an important question!

    1. Erwin Hofmann

      Re: As Dangerous As...

      ... or watching Telly with Advertisements every 5 Minutes and often up to 3 parallel, alternating, stories (does my brain in, every time) ...

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        Re: As Dangerous As...

        But doesn't the doctor know that according to the Craske-Trump Theorem, the product if the smartphone's IQ and the users IQ is a constant?

        Or did he forget?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As Dangerous As...

      Can it also be linked to the operating system, I hear the report states that Android has the biggest dumbing down effect.

  2. Anomalous Cowshed

    No but it's true

    These smartphones are incredibly useful tools, but if using them intensively, there are some drawbacks:

    - you can be tracked all the time

    - you will tend to not use your memory, calculating skills, imagination, reading, sense of awareness, interpersonal skills as much

    - many of these abilities are developed because they are needed. If not needed any more, we tend to lose them. Thus it is fairly predictable that these abilities will atrophy or not develop as much as they would otherwise

    All in all it's a rather costly trade-off for usefulness and convenience.

    The question is then, can a proper balance be struck?

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      I think you hit upon something interesting. The whole cell phone = brain death thing is often blamed on radiation, but it is equally possible (if not more likely) it is an effect of the conditioning of the brain i.e. it is using the devices not the radiation from them that is the primary danger. Yet again we a study which jumps from a to z using statistics rather than science. There needs to be a proveable mechanism. Frankly the control group would be a bitch to construct, a bunch of kids given cell phone like devices that don't emit radiation but has the same functionality. Borderline impossible, then theres the very valid ethical issues surrounding experimenting of kids. Probably why they fall back on statistics.

    2. Pookietoo

      Re: you will tend to not use your memory, calculating skills

      Well my memory has been crap since I can't remember when - I find Google incredibly useful for finding things that I only partly remember. However I was always rather good at mental arithmetic, and now I'm more likely to use Google for calculations than doing them in my head, which is probably a downside.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If I had kids (god forbid) I wouldn't want them glued to the games consoles / smartphones etc anyway. I mean sure I'm all happy for kids to play games every now and then, I did so why shouldn't they? But there are so many people I know who just sit their kids infront of a games console to get a few minutes piece.

    I'd only consider letting them on games consoles after homework is finished and dinner is eaten, and then off at least an hour before bed, (maybe half an hour with early bedtimes) and on the weekend I'd do the hated thing of taking them shopping, or to the pool, or something else to get the mout of the house so they don't spend all day on the computer.

    Not meaning to be harsh, but even I, as a computer fanatic / gamer / defender of comptuers know too well that too much time on the computer at a young age is a bad thing. When they're older and haven't got studies that'll suffer for it sure go ahead spend your afternoon playing quake 7, but until then Ii'd rather put a limit on it.

    Likewise I decided many years ago that I'd get them some decent TV to watch as children. I don't watch TV, and I'm not spending out on a TV license just so my kid can watch ceebeebies, but I'd happily go out and buy some DVDs / bluray with some kids shows that are somewhat educational while also entertaining and won't make me want to rip out my eyeballs. Animals of farthing wood comes to mind.


    Yeah if I ever have kids they're gonna hate me.

    1. CADmonkey

      Re: TBH

      "I'm not spending out on a TV license just so my kid can watch ceebeebies"

      You say that now....

    2. cotsweb

      Re: TBH

      Please come back to this post once your kids have reached say 10 years old and let us know how it went.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: TBH

        I'll probably be in jail by then for murder >.>

        1. Ted Treen

          Re: TBH

          "I'll probably be in jail by then for murder >.>"

          Defence of 'Pesticide'?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: TBH

            Infanticide, but close.

      2. ItsNotMe

        Re: TBH

        "Please come back to this post once your kids have reached say 10 years old and let us know how it went."

        Well...if people let THEIR kids run THEIR lives...then just maybe they are doing something wrong. It is called teaching your children the, now disappearing, concept of "respect for authority". I see far too many parents caving into the little darlings whinings, just to shut them up. Or so they don't "feel deprived". Oh the poor, poor little things.

        When my parents told me I couldn't have something I felt I should have, because "all of my friends have one", and I thought I should have the same thing also, I had to deal with it.

        What I was told was to get myself a my little tail off to earn money...then I would be able to buy whatever I wanted. AND I DID JUST THAT...starting at age 9 with my newspaper delivery route.

        That taught me the concept of responsibility, and hard work. AND the appreciation for the amount of hard work it took to get there. Something that is RARELY put into practice by today's parents.

        The little buggers are handed every toy (electronic & otherwise) they ask for, with absolutely no appreciation for what they are given. Mummy & Daddy will simply buy another one if they lose it...or trash it...or if a newer, shinier version comes out.

        What we are left with is a generation of snotty little ingrates...who will end up imparting these delightful "values" on THEIR offspring. How wonderful.

    3. John Sanders

      Re: TBH

      """If I had kids (god forbid)"""

      This is not an attack, just a thought: Maybe you may be missing something by not having kids.

      As a personal anecdote I can tell you that when I had my kids I realized I should have had them earlier.

      """I'm all happy for kids to play games every now and then"""

      It is much better playing the games with them, it is win-win, you get some time to relax, they love activities with dad, they love seeing you killing the baddies. Also you can easily control how much time do they spend playing and what are they playing.

      1. Armando 123

        Re: TBH

        As a step-father, I know what you miss without kids: money, stress, boredom, work, stupidity, annoyance, ... and that's just from dealing with the in-laws and with teachers.

      2. Pie

        Re: TBH

        you forgot to add that as they get older their quick reflexes are a real bonus for bits of games you can't do...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: TBH

          My kids are older and I have managed to limit the TV and computer gaming so it is possible. Sometimes it's been hard work but I think it's been good for them and will continue to help them in later life.

          I've still got the late teens to do so we'll see...........

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: TBH

      > Animals of farthing wood comes to mind.

      Drifting massively OT but my kids are big fans. Its story lines are more set in reality (granted they're animals that can talk...), death, destruction, killings, humans interference and bad creatures. In some ways better than the sugar coated mush that Disney produces for kids. They watch Disney too, but prefer AoFW at present. They'll grow up fine I'm sure......

      Of course it's not as bad as Watership Down. Back in 1978 I was scarred for life.....

      1. Tom 11

        Re: TBH

        AC, look... the field... it's covered with blood!

    6. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: TBH

      It's so cute the way otherwise intelligent people (who have no kids) think that kids experience and behaviour is dictated by parental decisions even though they have their own experience that demonstrates the multiple levels of fallacy involved in that argument.

      It is the clearest demonstration of the triumph of "what I want to be true" over "what I know from years of personal experience to be true" and, were I cleverer, I could probably parlay the phenomenominumnumnum into a book or six and guest spots on The Daily Show and like that.

  4. Anonymous Coward 101


    “Overuse of smartphones and game devices hampers the balanced development of the brain,” Byun Gi-won, a doctor at Seoul’s Balance Brain Center, told the paper.

    “Heavy users are likely to develop the left side of their brains, leaving the right side untapped or underdeveloped.”

    Is that based on high quality scientific research, Dr. Gi-won, or are you talking out of your hat?

    Is this guy a proper scientist in a relevant field, or a charlatan? Is the 'Brain Balance Center' a real scientific institution, or rather a place where quacks screw money out of people?

    There is no evidence smartphones cause dementia. I know this, because it is obviously bollocks.

    1. jptech

      Re: Cobblers

      Over the past 4 years, my memory has gotten really bad.

      My memory used to be amazing. But now I'm over 35 and I don't have to remember anything because my phone does it for me.

      1. btrower

        Re: Cobblers

        Aaaargh -- forgot what I was going to say.

    2. Turtle

      @Anonymous Coward 101: Re: Cobblers

      "There is no evidence smartphones cause dementia. I know this, because it is obviously bollocks."

      This is a memorable quote! The very essence of ratiocination!

      : )))

    3. Graham Dawson

      Re: Cobblers

      I think the bigger issue is that the left-brain logic/right-brain creativity paradigm has been demonstrated to be complete and utter donkey droppings.

  5. Phil W

    It's a little misleading to say that smartphones and tablets are responsible for this.

    Since they're saying that it's down to the type of brain development that results from usage, rather than any kind of biological damage from radiation etc. Then surely it depends on what you are using your mobile devices for?

    Using Facebook, Twitter etc, playing a variety of different games and texting probably aren't great.

    But what about reading ebooks and using a mobile device for writing up documents?

    Using your smartphone for playing location based games like Ingress that get you moving around outside?

    I spend many hours a week using my tablet. But I spend a lot of them reading books with the Kindle app. Does this have different effect on brain development than reading dead tree books?

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      I agree...

      ... the same is sometimes true of Gaming. My kids are Fallout crazy, they were always playing it. But they've spent the last 6 weeks creating their own levels, learning how to script things, editing 3d meshes, etc. Now they want help building a tips&tricks website to host some of their own content. Is this brain-destroying? I doubt it.

      You need to let kids be kids. Same with horses - there's a degree of control you need to exert, or everyone gets hurt, but control-freakery will get you nowhere fast - possibly causing lasting damage.

    2. Euchrid

      @ Phil W

      From what I’ve read, it’s for a variety of reasons. In Spitzer’s book, for instance, it’s argued that part of the problem is when people use digital media, they’re inclined to multitask more – particularly, in younger people. There’s been quite a lot of research into multitasking in general, which claims that it’s bad for someone’s concentration and that they’re likely to do each job better when done separately, than attempting multiple jobs at the same time. So pretty much about what you said about “using Facebook, Twitter etc, playing a variety of different games and texting probably aren't great.”

      Another reason is how someone is using it. If someone relies on devices to remember dates, numbers etc., it’s claimed that this damages their memory longer-term as it’s not being exercised.

    3. Mr Spock

      > Using your smartphone for playing location based games like Ingress that get you moving around outside?

      Ingres? Whan I was a lad, using that kept you stuck inside the dingiest offices imaginable.

  6. knarf

    Another Tech Injury FAD

    Remember thee olde ones:

    1) RSI : who gets that nowadays

    2) Telly: Rots your brain

    3) Mobiles: Heats your brain and cooks it

    4) Gaming: makes you stupid and slow (opposite seems to be true).

    Just another research team trying to justify their existence

    1. wowfood

      Re: Another Tech Injury FAD

      I have wuite bad RSI in my wrists, although it's mitigated by using a wrist rest when typing and using the mouse, mostly from mouse use actually.

      I'd replace it with another mobile one. "If you use your phone in a gas station you'll blow everybody up"

      1. riparian zone

        Re: Another Tech Injury FAD

        trackballs are a great option for RSI sufferers, of which I am. Big lover of trackballs with scroller collars.

        RSI has been around for years - it used to be an injury for secretaries and typists, but now most people type.

    2. Greg D
      Thumb Up

      Re: Another Tech Injury FAD

      I have mild RSI from too much Counterstrike on a shit mouse. It's manageable now as I use a gel wrist rest and an Ergonomic keyboard.

      Kinda agree with the rest though. The rise in cases is not really enough to convince me this is anything other than a) more cases being reported (ironically due to the internet) and b) normal annual churn in numbers of reported cases.

      With gaming, you are very correct, and studies have been made that show gaming actually sharpens up many skills, including hand-eye coordination and problem solving.

      I need to see more proof before anyone can convince me. I have noticed, if anything, an improvement in my cognitive abilities since the internet became what it is today. I also read a LOT more since it came into my life (books and online science-y type articles)!

    3. Kevin 6

      Re: Another Tech Injury FAD

      Got RSI from playing hours of starcraft with a very early optical logitec mouse that was oddly designed(and quite heavy compared to modern).

      Sometimes I still have issues gripping the steering wheel with my right hand due to the pain. Where I used to work I've known a few other people that had the same issue.

      3)Telly: Rots your brain

      Looking at the current shows on it, and how stupid people are getting there might be some need to revisit that.

  7. Euchrid


    “Aside from anecdotal evidence from several doctors interviewed for the piece, there are as yet not many hard stats to back up the claims that prolonged and intensive exposure to digital tech will lead to early onset dementia.”

    I understand that there’s a good amount of data and research in Digital Dementia, a book by German neuroscientist Dr Manfred Spitzer, which indicates the sort of problems that’s been claimed in South Korea. IIRC, Spitzer was building on South Korean work.

  8. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Cant argue with that

    though some people seem to be struck by it before they get the device and queue up for one!

  9. Robin Bradshaw


    Does this mean that if i make up some random doom-mongering bollocks with no more supporting evidence than "I asked my cat if it was true and he didn't say no" I can get an article front page of the reg??? That would be fantastic :)

    I think the correct response for story's like these is "piss off and come back with some actual evidence"

  10. John Sanders
    Thumb Up

    Still remember

    In the 80's I remember my mom telling me that my head would go square if I kept watching so much TV.

    Then eggs were really bad for you, they good, then it was tomatoes who were bad, later it was wine, now wine is good... ETC.

    1. Ted Treen

      Re: Still remember

      Listening to the 'well-meaning' advice of others id definitely bad for you.

      Have a beer instead - and cheer up.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still remember

      Nobody ever believed that watching TV (or sitting too close to it) would make your eyes go square. It's just something parents say to their children.

    3. Mr Spock

      Re: Still remember

      My mum told me that if the wind changed, my face would stay like that.

      I was so terrified I went to live on Macquarie Island.

  11. Aldous

    These the same Korean Doctors who think that fans are lethal?

    they cause suffocation don't you know

    1. Patrick R

      Re: These the same Korean Doctors who think that fans are lethal?

      Has that study got a billion hits on Youtube?

  12. Steve 13

    Correlation !=causation

    I didn't see anything in the article about how they actually established that gadget use was responsible.

    They might as well blame the increase in piracy of the coast of Somalia, unless they actually show a mechanism and establish causality rather than just speculate about it then the report is meaningless.

  13. Growler


    The bit of the article that jumped out at me was this one:

    "The government’s Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service reported that the number of Koreans suffering cognitive problems in the 20-40 age group had risen from 1,160 in 2008 to 1,585 last year."

    So out of a 2010 population of roughly 14.69 million (in that age range according to WolframAlpha) there were around 1300 or so people suffering cognitive problems (which we are invited to assume are all caused by tech use)? In perhaps the most tech-friendly country in the world? And this is supposed to indicate the graveness of the issue?

    From what I've read the issue appears to be really quite tiny!

    More facts, please!

  14. Waspy


    Must be a really slow news day if the Reg is rewording articles from the Daily Mail

  15. Sureo

    The rise and fall of Western Civilization

    ...done in by our technology.

    Esc = I want out.

  16. WatAWorld

    Who holds their phone to their head to text?

    It isn't bad enough that physicians are still using fax machines and keeping (life critical) medical records by scribbling on paper.

    Now they're talking on their smart phones instead of texting.


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