…your kid’s brain on Minecraft looks like a brain on drugs.
Many parents ... 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”...
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).
That’s right — your kid’s brain on Minecraft looks like a brain on drugs. No wonder we have a hard time peeling kids from their screens and find our little ones agitated when their screen time is interrupted. [emphasis mine]
In my clinical work with over 1,000 teens over the past 15 years, I have found the old axiom of “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” to be especially true when it comes to tech addiction. Once a kid has crossed the line into true tech addiction, treatment can be very difficult. Indeed, I have found it easier to treat heroin and crystal meth addicts than lost-in-the-matrix video gamers or Facebook-dependent social media addicts.
So how do we keep our children from crossing this line? It’s not easy.
The key is to prevent your 4-, 5- or 8-year-old from getting hooked on screens to begin with. That means Lego instead of Minecraft; books instead of iPads; nature and sports instead of TV. If you have to, demand that your child’s school not give them a tablet or Chromebook until they are at least 10 years old (others recommend 12).
Have honest discussions with your child about why you are limiting their screen access. Eat dinner with your children without any electronic devices at the table... Don’t fall victim to “Distracted Parent Syndrome” — as we know from Social Learning Theory, “Monkey see, monkey do.” [emphasis mine]
This also applies to adults. I'm curious as to what the future holds as the use of all of these technologies are changing our brains. How will this influence skills, traditions, knowledge, and values when the parents and educators are just as much under the influence as the children?
I think we're already seeing this in
1. entertainment swallowing news and politics in the the US, and
2. a major political party embracing fantasy over reality.
There has been a real dumbing down of civic discourse.Such a shame.
I will briefly set my empathy aside.
A combination of artificial and natural selection will largely determine these kids' futures.
My empathy may now return safely.
Early during the cell phone craze, a friend very conspicuously placed his cell phone on a communal breakfast table. I glared at it for a moment and asked the others who were with us, "If it sounds off, will someone please pour his fruit juice onto it?"