We associate the term ‘addict’ with heroin junkies by the side of the road and not with innocent cheerful children; yet scientists now warn us that children are fast getting addicted to smartscreen devices and it’s no figure of speech!
The problem starts when parents hand over their phones to their children to “keep them occupied” and before you know it kids start throwing tantrums when they don’t get to play their favorite games. Many child experts say that this digital dependence is a lot more sinister than we imagine and it may even be the world’s next great crisis.
Are Smartphones “Electronic Cocaine”?
“Research shows that simply using your smartphone has the same effect as cocaine on the prefrontal cortex portion of your brain”
A recent study utilized neuroimaging technology to prove that simply using your smartphone has the same effect as cocaine on the prefrontal cortex portion of your brain. This portion of the brain controls memory, reasoning, problem solving, and impulse control, which is why any addiction leads to a loss of these skills. Children are not born with these skills, but develop them as they grow older which is why they are more susceptible to digital addiction.
Not surprisingly, 97 percent of teens in Indian cities use social networking sites and surveys find that they spend 86 per cent of their time on Facebook!
A Hard To Break Addiction
“It’s harder to treat a tech-addicted teenager than it is to treat a heroin addict or alcoholic” – Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, an addiction expert
Another study showed that interacting with technology can drastically raise dopamine levels – dopamine is a “feel-good” hormone and so kids are compelled to keep using these devices in order to stay happy. Kids are very sensitive to the effects of dopamine and so they “crash” when denied access to digital technology, with excessively angry and even violent reactions. Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, an addiction expert says, “It’s harder to treat a tech-addicted teenager than it is to treat a heroin addict or alcoholic”.
Do You Recognize These Warning Signs
“If a child succumbs to digital addiction, a “digital detox” is necessary – going unplugged for at least four weeks” – Dr. Kardaras
One of the first warning signs of digital addiction in children is social withdrawal, where the child prefers digital activity to face-to-face communication. Don’t ignore changes in your child’s behavior, especially if he gets irritable, or agitated without much provocation. Once a child becomes a digital addict, a digital detox” is necessary, wherein the child has no access to any form of digital media for 4 weeks… the equivalent of quitting cold turkey!
Digital dependence may not seem as “real” as a drug addiction, but it can be just as addictive and every bit as damaging as a cocaine or heroin habit. In one case, a 12-year-old girl attempted to kill her mother with bleach for taking away her phone, while in another case a 13 year old boy shot his mother and killed her for taking away his game.
While most digital addicts do not resort to such levels of violence, these incidents highlight how severe the addiction can be.
Never underestimate the dangers of digital addiction – take your cue from tech experts like Steve Jobs, who didn’t allow his own children to even use an iPad!
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