It's difficult to find language generic enough to encompass the smartphones of 02012 as well the consumer technology of 02032, but it's not difficult to imagine that constant digital immersion could have significant effects on a developing brain. Riding the New York subways, I routinely see children as young as two playing digital games during moments that would have formerly been "boring." In these situations when a child of the 01992 would have been forced to occupy herself with her imagination, the child of 02012 has easy access to a variety of simple games that provide positive feedback at regular intervals. I will be surprised if this easy gratification is without negative consequences. It is tempting to point to the Start Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Game" as a model for this worrisome scenario, but it's unlikely that the progression of the free-to-play gaming trend will be so dramatic. Recognizing the slow-building consequences might take a generation, but I predict that by the time current three-year-olds begin college, calls for action will be common and, no more than five years subsequent, evidence of mental impairment will be sufficiently conclusive that even the most willfully blind politicians will be obliged to take action to protect the next generation of young Americans.
Challenge H James Lucas to a bet on this prediction!