Dimming the Lights on Glow Kids

IMG_9853 Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, technology addiction specialist and author of Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Children—And How to Break the Trance, presented a talk at Ross School last week in which he shared with an audience of parents and children the neurological impact of technology overload. His research was inspired by treating a teen who was so deeply enmeshed in a state of video game–induced psychosis that he had to be hospitalized and treated with medication.

“As the years went on, I began to see more parallels between behaviors associated with substance addiction and those of kids on high-screen diets,” Nick said. “These devices and experiences are not addictive by happenstance; this is a deliberate manipulation of our children using false narratives of education and entertainment.”

Nick says that the challenge is that children’s developing brains are more vulnerable to stimulants and stressors than adults’, and clinicians are beginning to see a relation between screen usage and increases in ADHD, anxiety, depression, aggression, and much more. “I have trouble as a 52-year-old man controlling my technology intake,” Nick said. “What chance does a 9- or 10-year-old kid even stand?”

To prevent technology addiction in your house, Nick recommends the following:

Delay children’s use of immersive technology. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents prevent screen usage for children under 18 months, but Nick suggests that we follow the model set by tech industry pioneers and delay children’s screen use as long as possible, even up to 10 years old, giving them an opportunity to develop an active imagination and interpersonal communication skills.

Establish technology-free zones. Model healthful boundaries for your children by setting prescribed times and places as technology-free zones. Preventing the use of electronics at the dinner table, for example, can lead to habits that cultivate better communication skills.

Reset addictive behaviors with a technology detox. Nick suggests a 14-day digital detox for those who show signs of digital addiction. Once completed, parents should reintroduce technology mindfully and with defined limits. As with an eating disorder, Nick says victims must cultivate a healthful relationship with their trigger because it’s impossible to abstain from it completely.