screen time

Digital Heroin

September 20, 2023

From tablets to smartphones, bright screens dominate our world. While these devices have undeniably made our lives more connected and convenient, they’ve also sparked a longstanding debate – how much screen time is too much, especially for our kids?

The Growing Concern of Technology Addiction

In his enlightening book, Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking Our Kids and How to Break the Trance, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras presents a bold analogy – excessive screen time’s neurological impact is akin to the damage caused by hardcore drug addiction. It’s a startling comparison, one that might seem extreme at first glance.

“Obviously, I’m not implying that screen addiction is as fatal as the opiate epidemic we are experiencing nationally, but it is as addictive as a lot of the other substance addictions we treat,” said Kardaras. “When I call screen technology ‘digital heroin,’ I really don’t make that comparison lightly. I mean this very sincerely; I find it easier to treat heroin and crystal meth addiction because we have protocols in place.”

Decoding the Addiction

Why is screen time so addictive? The answer lies in the brain’s reward center. Much like how drugs trigger a dopamine release, technology like video games and social media provide immediate gratification. Over time, this consistent dopamine rush can change the brain’s neural pathways, mirroring the effects observed in substance addiction.

With their developing brains, adolescents are particularly susceptible. The immediate rewards from devices can overshadow real-world activities that don’t provide instant feedback, like reading a book or playing outside.

Navigating the Screen-Filled World

Recognizing the potential pitfalls of excessive screen time doesn’t mean demonizing technology. Smart screens have their place in education, communication, and entertainment. The secret lies in balance and monitoring.

Here are a few steps parents can consider.

  1. Set clear boundaries: Designate screen-free times, like during meals or before bedtime.
  2. Encourage outdoor activities: Physical play can offset screen time and offers numerous health benefits.
  3. Educate: Discuss the risks of excessive screen time with kids and encourage them to self-regulate.
  4. Be a role model: Lead by example. If you constantly have your face buried in your device, it’s hard to enforce screen time rules your kids will follow.

The Double-Edged Sword of Technology

Technology has undeniably woven itself into the fabric of our daily lives. Specifically, smartphones have revolutionized how we learn, communicate, work, and entertain ourselves. But as with all advancements, there’s a flip side. Parents today grapple with ensuring these devices enrich rather than impede their teens’ growth and well-being.

The Forum recognizes the challenges of parenting in this digital age. Through family therapy, we provide the tools and resources families need to navigate this screen-filled world. Remember, technology isn’t the enemy; it’s about how you help your teens use and manage it. If you’re worried about your teen’s mental well-being, reach out to our team today.