Is Digital Addiction the New Cocaine?

As smartphones, tablets, video games, and social media have proliferated, so too have warnings about their impact on children. Too much screen time has been associated with overweight and obesity, poor grades, and sleep problems, to name a few common ills we’ve come to expect. But in a recent spate of research, experts are finding a new area of concern: digital addiction.

According to a recent article in Education Week, “research studies show that these devices affect the frontal cortex…in the same way as cocaine does.” Overuse is not called “digital heroine” for nothing.

In his book Glow Kids, addiction expert Dr. Nicholas Kardaras mentions that young kids who spend too much time on electronic devices are at risk to develop a digital addiction. He also states that this digital addiction is harder to overcome than a drug addiction. Initial readers’ response was that equating children’s technology usage and drugs was an exaggeration. But Kardaras claims that more than 200 studies correlate excessive technology use with a number of disorders, addiction being only one of them. While this can affect adults, the effect on kids is worse.

What’s a Parent to Do?

 Given that electronic devices are everywhere (including the classroom), it’s not realistic—or even in your child’s best interest—to adopt a Luddite mentality. After all, the benefits of technology are also well documented, especially for children with learning disabilities who use assistive technology to access learning that would otherwise be unavailable.

The issue is not technology or no technology. Instead it is a question of “dose.” As a parent, it’s your job to monitor your child’s daily dose of electronic media to ensure that he or she does not suffer any of the ills associated with the overuse of electronic devices, including addiction.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a helpful guide to media use for parents of children of all ages.

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