Your Brain on Technology Is the Same as Your Brain on Drugs

(Photo: KidStock/Getty Images)

Your Brain on Technology Is the Same as Your Brain on Drugs

Experts say social media, video games and streaming shows have turned kids into "digital junkies."

Published September 2, 2016

We're all fully immersed in the digital age. You're reading this on some type of screen right now. Whether it's desktop, tablet or mobile, a large part of your life is spent in interaction with technology. 

We are constantly face to face and utterly mesmerized with our screens — and so are America's kids. And while adult brains are more developed and thus better equipped to handle all of this stimulation, we still have our issues with coping. But the younger generation, born post Facebook era, is in danger of facing real consequences. 

Research has found that children and teens’ dependence to the digital world is beginning to have a negative impact on their development with some well-respected experts even classifying it an “addiction.”

Translation: Pokemon Go and YouTube have their brains high as a kites.

In a recent New York Post report, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, author of Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids — and How to Break the Trance writes that "your kid’s brain on Minecraft looks like a brain on drugs” and that for him “it’s easier to treat heroin and crystal meth addicts than lost-in-the-matrix video gamers or Facebook-dependent social media addicts.”

Yikes!

He also added that "hundreds of clinical studies show that screens increase depression, anxiety and aggression and can even lead to psychotic-like features where the video gamer loses touch with reality.”

This addiction is also making it harder for young people to socialize and form bonds with their peers, teachers and their own parents.

Neurotherapist and doctor of psychology Mari Swingle recently told the National Post, “What we’re seeing with this group is that they’re attaching to objects instead of peers and parents,” said the author of i-Minds: How Cell Phones, Computers, Gaming and Social Media Are Changing Our Brains, Our Behavior and the Evolution of Our Species.

She added, “When we talk about straight discipline and obedience, they’re not responding to parents as much. They tantrum without their devices. They don’t know how to self-occupy or play — and play is learning at that age.”

And while for some this news may seem really dramatic, just think about it: Young people are spending a lot of time logged in. The New York Post pointed out that a 2013 policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics says that 8- to 10-year-olds spend eight hours a day with various digital media while teenagers spend 11 hours in front of screens. And don’t forget about the babies: One in three kids are using tablets or smart phones before they can talk.

That cannot be good. But all isn’t lost — there are things that can be done to alleviate the problem.  

Kardaras suggests that the first step is to limit the amount of time kids are spending in front of screen. So instead of your kid playing online building block games like Minecraft, have them play with actual Legos. In addition, try enrolling your child in physical activities such as after-school clubs, sports and drama class. This way they are engaging with others and having real-life experiences as opposed to mindless virtual ones.

But most important, the grown-ups have to lead by example. The more logged in to electronic devices parents are, the more detached they are from the world and the kids in them.

And like most things in this world, it’s OK to partake in the digital world, but moderation is key.

Written by Kellee Terrell

(Photo: KidStock/Getty Images)

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