Patricia Greenfield is distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA and director of the UCLA/California State University, Los Angeles Children’s Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles. She is also the author of Mind and Media: The Effects of Television, Video Games, and Computers. Before participating in a panel discussion about technology’s impact on our health, Greenfield visited the Zócalo green room to talk about her sixth grade drumming career, why technology won’t turn our brains into mush, and why she never waits in line at the supermarket.
What is your favorite children’s book?
Winnie the Pooh.
What does it take to get you on a dance floor?
I love to dance. Absolutely nothing—not even a partner.
Which form of new technology is most likely to turn our brains to mush?
That’s a ridiculous question. First of all, we’re assuming technology turns the brains to mush. Every experience we have affects our brains. There’s nothing special about using technology that affects our brains. Reading affects our brains. Everything we do strengthens some neural connections, possibly at the expense of others.
What relaxes you?
Rowing. I’m a competitive rower. I row around Marina del Rey.
How do you pass the time while you’re waiting in line at the supermarket?
I don’t wait in line at the supermarket. I go to small stores. I don’t drive. So I go to the farmers’ market. I tend to take the bus home or walk or bicycle, so I can’t buy that much. And I’ve never liked large supermarkets.
If you could play any musical instrument, which would you choose?
Drums. I used to play drums in my sixth grade orchestra. I always regretted not keeping it up.
When you turn on the television at your house, what channel is most likely to be on?
I virtually have no TV. I can get channel 2 and channel 4, but I haven’t really watched them. I’d be more likely to watch a DVD.
What’s your favorite plant?
Can it be a tree? Right now it’s my lemon tree. It’s bearing lemons for the first time.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I never had any thoughts about it. I knew I was going to college. I didn’t know what I would do afterward. I didn’t know any women who worked. I didn’t have any role models.
How old should a kid be before you give them a cell phone?
When the child is independent enough that you’re really concerned about where he or she is. That’s the time to give them a cell phone.