Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids—and How to Break the Trance
By Nicholas Kardaras, PhD
St. Martin’s Press
Screen Addiction Book
The image on the cover of Glow Kids is hauntingly familiar—a child’s face transfixed and illuminated by a blue screen. If you want to better understand the addiction to glowing devices that plagues children—and adults—across the nation, this book—written in a conversational tone—is a great resource. If you prefer to focus on what you can do to heal yourself or others, you can skip to the final chapter and try some of Dr. Nicholas Kardaras’s suggested solutions. His recommended protocols to treat digital addiction include a full digital detox (avoiding computers, smartphones, tablets and television for four to six weeks to reset habits), introducing new activities and hobbies, connecting with other people and immersing yourself in nature.
Written in 2016, Glow Kids demonstrates the impact of screen addiction on children through the author’s clinical work, research and media insights. An addiction expert, Kardaras weaves together firsthand accounts and studies to convey the neurological, psychological, biological and behavioral effects of these technologies on young people. Kardaras describes many specific encounters and conversations, such as sitting in an office with a boy named “Dan” who was so addicted to an online fantasy game that he became unresponsive, frightened and disconnected from his body.
In the first chapter, Kardaras documents how screens—and video games, in particular— are designed to manipulate the neural-hormonal network and result in addictive adrenal arousal, often leading to more serious conditions like Game Transfer Phenomena (see Ortiz de Gotari AB and Griffiths MD, “Game Transfer Phenomena and its associated factors: an explanatory empirical online survey study,” Comput Human Behav, 2015;51:195-202), which is what “Dan” experienced, or Internet-related psychosis (see Nitzan U, et al., “Internet-related psychosis—a sign of the times,” Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci, 2011;48:207-211). Kardaras goes on to explain how screens trigger dopamine-activating responses that are just as arousing and addictive as sexual activity and drugs. In another chapter, Kardaras writes about the dangers of radiation emitted by phones and screens, including the fact that EMF exposure above two mG (milligauss) harms biological organisms; a typical computer measures at two to five mG at three feet away, and four to twenty mG at four inches and closer.
Throughout the book, Kardaras references and breaks down research studies to support his points, including using Dr. Bruce Alexander’s “Rat Park” addiction experiments to explain why not everyone develops addiction when exposed to the same substance. In the late 1970s, Alexander did an experiment that provided the same drug-laced water to two separate groups of rats and found that only rats isolated alone in cages became addicts. Rats with access to “Rat Park,” a large open area filled with other rats and possible activities, barely touched the drugged water. Kardaras suggests we consider children’s screen addiction in the context of Alexander’s conclusion that addiction is more likely in “our hyperindividualistic, hypercompetitive, frantic, crisis-ridden society [that] makes most people feel socially and culturally isolated.” Kardaras lays out how isolation not only can lead to addiction but to insanity, referencing a six-week human experiment carried out at McGill University in the 1950s, which was cut short when the subjects in isolation began to experience psychosis.
Unfortunately, the large amount of evidence that electronic devices are harmful to children has not stopped the drive to force them into the hands of millions of young Americans. Kardaras does a deep dive into the money behind education technology and what he labels as the “screen-obsessed Educational Industrial Complex.” He describes how school officials and tech advocates have pushed technology as a “necessary” civil right, with no proof but lots of profit. In 2014, the Los Angeles Unified School District had a plan to purchase over one billion dollars̕ worth of iPads from Apple with Pearson educational software for every student in the district. While that plan failed and resulted in an FBI investigation, school districts across the nation have followed suit by purchasing and distributing devices to students despite the correlation between these technologies and aggressive behavior or those labeled as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Kardaras also writes about the desensitizing effect of exposure to violent imagery, devoting two chapters (“Ripped from the Headlines: Real Cases of Video Game-Influenced Violence” and “The Newton Massacre: Video Game Psychosis”) to true, heartbreaking stories of gruesome violence resulting from video game addiction. One of the incidents took place after parents had taken away their son’s “Halo 3,” a violent “first-person shooter” video game that, as of 2014, had sold over sixty million units and grossed over three billion dollars for Microsoft.
As I read these heavy chapters and the recent headlines about another tragedy in Texas, I couldn’t help but recall what Tommy John said during his January 2022 interview on the Wise Traditions Podcast (episode #347): “We really are experts in some really bad things.” Kardaras calls himself “one of the world’s foremost addiction experts.” Do we really want to be experts on the negative impact of technology, or would we rather be experts on the positive impact of nourishing food for mental health? If you’re reading this journal, I’d imagine you agree that what we need right now are experts in food, farming and the healing arts with skills that will serve human beings in the long-term. While I would recommend this book based on its readability and research, I would rather give a thumbs up for the work of the Weston A. Price Foundation to ensure that our kids are glowing with health from within!
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2022🖨️ Print post
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