I have read Small's book "iBrain" over the last couple of days and am very unimpressed.
I suppose by Small's description of Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives, I am an early immigrant or perhaps a "pioneer" --- I went online in my early 20s connecting to the first online communities (dial-up bulletin boards in the early 80s). My brain was still a little plastic then, I suppose, so I'm like someone who immigrates as a young adult.
It seems to me Dr. Small set about to write a book that would appeal to the fears of the digital immigrants, the fears of all parents, and the disparaging emotions of those who just generally feel that the world is going to the dogs.
Dr. Small's writing is full of emotionally laden language. Teenagers don't just look at computer screens, they "stare". Their music doesn't play, it "blares". Each chapter is prefaced by a short horror story about a cyberaddicted person. Do-it-yourself "assessment tests" at the back of the book ask questions that would lead most honest people to worry about themselves -- and even more likely, to fill in the answers for their spouse or child in a negative way.
Small conflates TV with computer use in much of his writing; despite their similar screens they are completely different. He reports early in the book that "a recent Kaiser study found that young people eight to eighteen years of age expose their brains to eight and a half hours of digital and video sensory stimulation each day." Note his choice of words: "expose their brains to...". Not "experience" or "use", but "expose their brains"; like exposure to radiation. His choice of words already betrays his judgment and seeks to set the reader's bias. But the study notes that only one hour of this is using the computer! Four hours is video and TV, nearly two hours is music. Less than an hour is video games. Through the book, however, Small would have the reader worry about computer use causing not only brain changes, but autism symptoms and other antisocial personality disorders. Is this likely to be the computer use, or the TV watching?
Now of course it is clear that new technology is seductive and can be addictive. It is just common sense that playing computer games that repeatedly give you a simulation of blowing someone's head off is going to affect your emotional health. In that, some games ARE worse than TV because usually once you've watched the movie once or twice you are done with it, whereas you play the game over and over for hours. On the other hand, if you watch four or more hours of schlok TV every day, you are going to be brain damaged.
But don't blame it on the Internet. Sure, some kids or adults are going to spend too much time on the Internet, or develop addictions to porn or Facebook or Ebay. Just like some kids who smoked pot really did go on to get addicted to heroin.
In summary, I think Small throws in a few interesting tidbits about brain function, but his conclusions are suspect and his tone highly judgmental. Yes, computer use is causing changes in brain wiring, just like the printing press, telephone, radio and TV, and even automobiles. And there are always people who aren't well adjusted. Why jump to the conclusion that computers are a cause rather than a refuge? Well, everybody has to make a buck -- but I'm sorry to have contributed to his income.