Last year, New York Post published a piece about new research suggesting that electronic gaming and screen addiction in children is akin to drug addiction, as those with it exhibit similar signs as true drug dependent people and experience similar neurological and other body functioning deterioration.
Here is an excerpt about a mom who gave in to giving her son an iPad to play games like Minecraft which she was convinced by her son’s behavioral therapist was akin to digital lego blocks:
Although that concerned her, she thought her son might just be exhibiting an active imagination. As his behavior continued to deteriorate, she tried to take the game away but John threw temper tantrums. His outbursts were so severe that she gave in, still rationalizing to herself over and over again that “it’s educational.”
Then, one night, she realized that something was seriously wrong.
“I walked into his room to check on him. He was supposed to be sleeping — and I was just so frightened…”
We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug.
She found him sitting up in his bed staring wide-eyed, his bloodshot eyes looking into the distance as his glowing iPad lay next to him. He seemed to be in a trance. Beside herself with panic, Susan had to shake the boy repeatedly to snap him out of it. Distraught, she could not understand how her once-healthy and happy little boy had become so addicted to the game that he wound up in a catatonic stupor.
There’s a reason that the most tech-cautious parents are tech designers and engineers. Steve Jobs was a notoriously low-tech parent. Silicon Valley tech executives and engineers enroll their kids in no-tech Waldorf Schools. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page went to no-tech Montessori Schools, as did Amazon creator Jeff Bezos and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.
But it’s even worse than we think.
We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex.
This addictive effect is why Dr. Peter Whybrow, director of neuroscience at UCLA, calls screens “electronic cocaine” and Chinese researchers call them “digital heroin.” In fact, Dr. Andrew Doan, the head of addiction research for the Pentagon and the US Navy — who has been researching video game addiction — calls video games and screen technologies “digital pharmakeia” (Greek for drug).
Interesting. Read the entire article here.
Editor’s notes: I’m stoked that I have something in common with these tech giants because although I am a tech policy and inclusion advocate and earn a living using technology, especially online digital media, my children attend a very low-tech classical school that emphasize on fundamentals. Yet, still, my children exhibit lots of signs of digital addiction so…yeah. * le sigh *