glow kids
Join us on this episode of the Health and Wellness show as we talk with Dr. Nicholas Karadaras, Psychotherapist, addiction expert and founder of Hampton's Discover a progressive adolescent treatment program. Dr. Kardaras is the author of a new book - Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking Our Kids and How to Break the Trance. In this episode we discuss the trouble with tech: addiction, gaming induced psychosis, electronic screen syndrome, tablets in schools and the effects of screen addiction on young developing brains. We also discussed possible solutions and how to unplug from the matrix.

Running Time: 01:26:46

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Here's the transcript of the show:

Erica: Good day and welcome to the Health and Wellness Show. Today is February 10, 2017. Joining us in our virtual studio are Erica-myself, Tiffany, Doug, Elliot and Jonathan. We have a special guest today, Dr. Karadaras who likes to be referred to as Dr. K. Welcome Dr. K. Thanks for being on the show.

Dr. K: Great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.

Erica: So Dr. Karadaras has a PhD and is a psychotherapist, addiction expert, executive director of The Dunes in East Hampton, New York, one of the top rehabs in the country. He is also founder of the Hamptons Discovery and Adolescent Treatment Program. He's the author of two books, How Plato and Pythagoras Can Save Your Life published in 2011 and his newest book, Glow Kids published in 2016 and I apologize. I forgot the rest of the name of your book in that moment. But welcome to the show and please, give us a little bit of background on yourself and what brought you to this glow kids phenomenon. What inspired you to write this book last year?

Dr. K: Well I think being a human being living on the planet in the 21st century was my first entry point, visually seeing that we were going through a shift in our culture with our digital technologies and how children were experiencing their external world. But professionally I'm an addiction psychologist and I was a clinical professor at Stony Brook University teaching addiction and the neurophysiology of addiction and in my private practice over the last 15 years I've worked with over 1,000 teenagers.

My first ah-ha! moment was about 10 years ago when I worked with a young man who had been a compulsive video gamer and he had been playing a game called World of Warcraft for about 10-12 hours a day. When he was referred to me in my office he was in a full-blown state of psychosis which later I came to understand is what's known as game transfer phenomenon or what some people also call video game psychosis. Essentially he was in the matrix and didn't know if he was still in the game or out of the game. He was blinking very hard in my office, looking around and I kept asking him if he knew where he was. "Do you know where you are?" After about a minute or so he said to me "Are we still in the game?"

That young man had to be hospitalized psychiatrically for a month, unfortunately was given anti-psychotic medications for several weeks. What struck me was that this young man had no prior history of mental illness, had none of the underlying vulnerabilities that we might associate with a young person having a psychotic break and had an episode of what's called derealisation where you don't know what's real and what's not, which we used to associate with a substance-induced derealisation episode. A bad acid trip used to lead to what that man was experiencing.
That was my ah-ha! moment where I began to realize that this was some pretty powerful mind-altering experiences that some of our young people were having and that was the beginning of my beginning to work with, and clinically research. some of these experiences.

Erica: You say in your book that 97% of all American children ages 2 through 17 play videogames, so 64 million kids.

Dr. K: Right.

Erica: And why is it they're so attracted to it?

Dr. K: So videogames dopaminergic and what that means is video games raise dopamine levels and dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is the most closely associated with addiction. It's that feel good neurotransmitter that a person feels when they engage or ingest a substance that makes them feel good. So they did a study back in 1998 by Dr. Koepp and they measured how dopamine activating certain substances and experiences were, so things like chocolate raised dopamine levels 50%. A sexual experience raises dopamine levels 100% and they found that 1998 videogames raised dopamine levels 100%. They were as dopamine activating as a sexual experience.

So playing a videogame is essentially the equivalent of what I call a digital orgasm in the brain of a child. The problem is a child doesn't have the neurological apparatus, the developed frontal cortex to have that impulse control because the frontal cortex doesn't fully develop until we're in our early 20s, which is why teenagers tend to do impulsive things like bungee jump and have unprotected sex.

So we're giving a highly stimulating, dopamine-activating experience to infants and children who don't have the braking mechanism to moderate that usage and that's the problem in a nutshell.

Erica: You also talk about how children are living in an archetypical desert. It's like the digital version of Campbell's Hero's Journey, right?

Dr. K: Yeah.

Erica: They're looking for a deeper meaning or connection or a purpose and that's why the matrix appeals to them. Could you speak about that a little bit?

Dr. K: Yeah, Carl Jung in the 1940s talked about the fact that we were experiencing a poverty of symbols and a poverty of meaning. And again, this is back in the 1940s. So we've suffered an iconoclasm where we've stripped away a lot of the meaning-making archetypes of our world; things that traditionally contained archetypes, everything from fairy tales to religious symbols, to social contexts. Jung used the phrase demystified, that science has demystified a lot of the world. But the problem is, from a psychological standpoint, we need those archetypes. They're soul satisfying. We need the hero's journey. We need our archetypal figures. So in this archetypal desert where we're told that there's no Santa Claus, there's no god, there's no tooth fairy - and I've worked with kids who are starved for that.

And the game industry knows that so they create games that are rife with archetypal experiences. Essentially most videogames are expressions of a hero's journey. The movie Avatar was so popular because again, it was also a hero's journey. A young person had to undergo a rite of passage, overcome certain obstacles and then reach what's called an apotheosis where they become sort of closer to divinity through the use of experiences. If you look at most videogames, that's what they are.

So I've worked with a lot of young people who are starved for those kinds of experiences and experience that type of archetypal mythological sense of purpose through the game. So in that sense it serves a very real need but it does it, unfortunately, in a very violent and addictive framework.

Doug: Dr. K, I had a question about that because you mention that the video game producers are aware of this. I honestly had to wonder about this and I looked into it a little bit regarding how video game designers actually go about designing their games. It seems like they are purposely using a lot of different techniques like stuff that B.F. Skinner came up with a generation ago to encourage this kind of addictive dopamine-spiking behaviour.

Dr. K: Yeah. Yeah. It's no accident the games are as addicting as they are. It's funny, about a month ago I just got an APA (American Psychological Association) email sometimes will randomly send psychologists classified emails for job opportunities. One of them was emailed to me and it was the that gaming industry was looking to hire the top behavioural psychologists and contacts. So what you're referring to, the B.F. Skinner, is most videogames which are reward-based, have the same type of reward schedule as a slot machine, which is called a variable reward schedule because that's the most compulsing and addicting reward schedule.

So if you talk to any retiree who plays the one-armed bandit, you know that you don't get rewarded every time. You don't get rewarded every third time but it's a variable ratio. So you don't know when you're going to hit the jackpot, so you keep putting coin after coin in because you're thinking the next pull of the one-armed bandit is going to get you get you that gold.

Games are very much like that. They have a variable reward ratio, Minecraft in particular where you're supposed to find the ores under random elements. You don't know which strike of the pickaxe is going to reward you with some of these desired ores, so children will literally keep playing for hours and sometimes days because they have been manipulated very consciously by these gaming industry designers.

The other part that they do that's very, I think - a word I'll use because I'm a parent and I think is evil, because it's this idea of shooting fish in a barrel with using our most innocent and vulnerable children to manipulate with such tactics - they'll hire adolescent beta testers to beta test the game. So not only do they want the game to be as dopamine-activating as possible, not only do they want the reward ratio to be as compulsing as possible, but what they do is when they beta test a new game with teenagers they usually give them an Amazon test card for $100. That's the quid pro quo that they do with these gamers. They hook them up to galvanic skin responses at the blood pressure gauges and what they're measuring is their excitability level and essentially the adrenalin surge of the game.

So if the gamer's blood pressure doesn't spike to 180 over 140 within two minutes of playing the game they go back to tweak the game to make it more adrenalin-surging. The reason why they do that - and I don't want to get too complicated about it - but there's a phenomenon called the HPA axis which is our hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal axis and that's essentially our fight or flight response. If I get chased by a dog or a bus almost hits me, I have an adrenalin surge and that activates my HPA axis. So evolutionarily we were meant to go into fight or flight response for brief moments of emergency. What hyper-stimulating first-shooter games do is they put the young person into that fight or flight state for hour after hour after hour after hour.

Unfortunately when that happens it changes the thermostat of that person's adrenal system so what you have then if you're in that fight or flight state for weeks or months or years playing hour after hour, you become very mood dis-regulated. So what looks like is it could look like ADHD or look like explosive behaviour. But it looks a very nervous, reactive hyper- vigilant child because they've been too hyper-stimulated and their adrenal thermostat can't go back to baseline simply.

I'll give as an example, if any of us as adults watched a very adrenalin-surging movie - in my book I use the example of the Liam Neeson movie "Taken", you know a real car chase kind of movie - and we get our adrenalin rushing, it's really hard to watch that movie for two hours and then five minutes later sit down calmly and read a book like War and Peace after you've had your adrenalin surging. And that's after a two hour movie.
Now picture yourself as a 9 or 10-year-old child who's doing this for 10 hours and then you're asking the child to sit quietly in a classroom. Well now they're going to look like they're hyperactive and then they're going to get referred to potentially a psychiatrist and then unfortunately they're going to get put on something like Ritalin or something to address the hyperactivity when what's really causing that hyperactivity might be the hyper-stimulation of their digital experiences.

So it's a complex issues which has a lot of impact on some of our most vulnerable segments of our society.

Jonathan: Dr. K, you had mentioned the story at the beginning about the young man who had a psychotic break. We look around and we see all of the children who are playing videogames are not having psychotic breaks. What do you think is the percentage of these very extreme cases that are happening? And to add to that, what do you think is the most damaging side effect of the over-gaming of children? Is it damaging learning capabilities or the ability to interact with society? What are your thoughts on that?

Dr. K: So if you look at some of these effects on the continuum and at the extreme end of that continuum we'll say are extreme end of the full-blown psychotic episodes like that young man that I talked about. I've read the whole case file on Adam Lanza, the Newtown massacre shooter, I've read the Connecticut attorney general's report. I'm entirely convinced that he also was in the thrall of a videogame psychotic episode. Just to go off on that for one minute, Adam Lanza had been pulled out of school. He had underlying vulnerabilities. He had very severe OCD and he was on the spectrum and spectrum children already suffer from a lack of emotional empathy and so his mother pulled him out of school and essentially he went to a video game bunker where that's all he did all of his waking hours.

When the FBI went back and audited his gaming profile he was playing a couple of very violent first person shooter games, one of which he was mostly playing was Modern Warfare II and in Modern Warfare II you're going into an airport and you're shooting civilians, including women and children, and he was documented as having 25,000 head shots in the couple of months before the Newtown shooting. In Modern Warfare II, which is a very hyper-realistic game, when you shoot your victims in the airport they're crawling away in their own blood and then you finish them off as they're crawling away in their blood.

He was also playing a game called School Shooter and there's actually a game out there called School Shooter where you go from classroom to classroom shooting children. By the way, there also happens to be a game called Columbine. So these are first amendment issues where how these games can even be allowed to be made. But that's what he was playing. I'm entirely convinced that he had a full-blown psychotic break, that he thought he was in the game experience when he did those shootings. There are a couple of reasons why I say that in addition to what I already said.

One of the FBI investigators said that he was trying to be high scorer in the videogame because they found in his bedroom a spreadsheet and it had every serial killer in the United States with a point total next to them and the reason why this one investigator felt he chose elementary schools was because he felt it was fish in a barrel, that he'd be able to be the top scorer on the game. The other reason why the investigator felt that he was in the videogame experience was that he didn't allow himself to get shot by the police. He shot himself when he was encircled.

In videogame culture, if you let yourself be shot you lose your point total but if you kill yourself you hold onto your points. So if we assume or even let's say for argument's sake that Adam Lanza and the young men that I work with at the extreme end of that continuum, what are the "impacts" on normal kids with blurring reality? Well Dr. Mark Griffiths and Dr. Rebecca de Gortari were the ones who coined the phrase "game transfer phenomenon" and game transfer phenomenon are essentially these reality-blurring effects that we're talking about.

They did a study with 1,800 gamers and all of their participants had experienced some level of game transfer phenomenon. Now it wasn't severe enough where they were going to go shoot up a school but all of them to some degree had moments where they were "here aspects" of the game hours or days after the game was shut off or they would see in their visual field parts of the game. Years ago this was called the Tetris effect. Harvard did a study - for those of you who are old enough to remember the game Tetris.

Tiffany: Yeah.

Dr. K: But Tetris was a really pretty simple game, or I think. There were these little square tetriminos that used to fall down the screen. What they discovered with the Tetris effect was that people would see those squares in their dreams for days and weeks after they stopped playing. It seemed that the visual intensity of some of these screen effects had a searing effect on the person's psyche and that would have an imprinting effect that could be pretty powerful.

Now when Harvard did that Tetris effect study, these were college-aged students. These were 19, 20, 21-year-olds. The problem with very reality-blurring video games for 7 and 8-year-olds is that developmentally they're just developing their sense of what psychologists call reality testing. A 7 or 8-year-old is just beginning to understand his external world as being real and his internal world of his own mind being not real. If in that developmental stage you're exposing them to not just an immersive hyperreal video game but now we're talking about three dimensional and we're talking about augmented reality. We're talking about Pokemon. We're talking about consciously reality-blurring effects on young people who aren't developmentally ready to have their reality blurred to such a significant degree.

So I've seen "normal" kids who have said to me "I can't get the game out of my head". I'm working with a young man now who's a 19-year-old University of Houston, former All American wrestler. He was playing a game, not a first person shooter game but an archetypal game called Runecraft and he's been in the rehab for three months, and it's three months later and he says to me "Dr. Karadaras, I can't get the game, the images of the screen, out of my mind. I see them in my sleep. I see them in my waking moments". And this was "normal" young guy.

So these reality-blurring effects are significant and are real. Do I think that they're the most damaging part of the digital landscape? I think the most damage part is the attentional impacts, kids that are getting hyper-stimulated mentally don't develop their ability to attend and to focus as much as prior generations have been able to. So we're seeing an epidemic of ADHD, a 50% spike over the last 10 years of ADHD which I think is a direct byproduct of kids getting hyper-stimulated when they should be developing their hand/eye coordination and their ability to stay focused. They're getting hyper-stimulated or else they get easily distracted.

Those are significant impacts. The socialization effect is a significant impact. There's a whole continuum of impacts that even "well-adjusted" children seem to be suffering from.

Tiffany: Dr. K I had a question too because I know parents who have very young children. In this particular case that I'm thinking of it's a 2-year-old boy or maybe even before that, he uses his mother's tablet and his grandmother's cell phone to play little games. You talked about how it affects teenagers and kids that are 7 or 8 years old. But what about even younger, like toddler age. Everywhere they go, like in the car, they have a tablet with them and they're just playing a game or whatever. They can't really articulate what they think about the game or what's going on. What kind of effects have you seen, or have you read about or studied the research about toddlers using this type of technology?

Dr. K: The most important thing that an infant or toddler needs to be doing to fully maximize their cognitive and their intellectual abilities is to use their active imagination. That's what really builds their neurosynaptic muscles. When a kid picks up a stick and plays make believe with it, they're using their active imagination, co-playing with other kids and using [their neurosynaptic muscles]. Those are very significantly developmentally appropriate activities. What we're effectively doing is to rob an entire generation of their imagination because we're programming the imagery into their minds.

So when that 2 year old who's getting those images force fed into his or her visual centre, they're not imagining or visualizing or processing their visual landscape. For example, if a 3-year-old was playing with Lego, the most wonderful thing that they could be doing is that they start creating and building, imagining and putting hand/eye coordination which is neurosynaptic and frontal cortex developing, and they're creating, they're imagining. What we're doing to these children is we're programming them. We're passively showing them images which they don't then have to use any mental muscle to imagine.

I'll give you a pop culture example which I always found very powerful. Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills & Nash way back when, gave a quote after MTV had first exploded onto the scene in the mid-'80s with music video and every band at that time was making music videos. Graham Nash said that "We'll never make a music video because we don't want to program our listener with what they visualize when they hear our music. We want them to create their own music video in their own minds." I thought about that and I'll ask you and anybody listening to do this experiment.
If you think of a song that you've never seen the music video for, what comes to mind? For all of us, if I think of a song from my youth, imagery comes up that's very personal. But if I think of a song that I've seen the music video for, the video pops into my head. I can't help it. It kind of jumps in there. That's what we're doing times a thousand to these infants. We're programming imagery into their minds and robbing them of their ability to create their own interior landscape. People don't factor that in. People don't factor in how important this idea of active imagination is, which is by the way why people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Google, none of these digitally creative geniuses, had been exposed to a computer before the age of 13.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin were Montessori students who had no technology in their schools. It was the same thing with Steve Jobs who didn't allow his own kids to have iPads. There's a whole battle going on right now by the way in Los Altos where there's a lot of silicon valley engineers who are not only taking their kids out of schools that have digital devices and putting them into the Los Altos Waldorf school because the people inventing the digital world know the negative impact that it has on the developing brain of the infant.

So when I see a 2-year-old in the crib I shudder. Again, these are well-intentioned parents. I don't think any parent willingly does anything that they think is damaging to their child but they've been lied to. They've been conned by the tech industry that has manipulated them. They've used certain catch phrases like "educational" to anaesthetize these parents into believing the false narrative that they're somehow helping enhance their infants' learning when just the opposite is true.

Doug: I was reading recently about infants who weren't able to use building blocks anymore. They could swipe a screen but that when they had to do something as simple as building with blocks, something that you think of kids naturally doing, taking blocks and start building something with it. Teachers are starting to notice that these kids, or maybe even parents are noticing that they no longer have the ability to do that.

Dr. K: That's a perfect example. That's exactly what I'm talking about. I can tell you anecdotally with the thousand kids that I've worked with, each generation, each cohort coming up the chute, it seems like year-by-year the kids were less imaginative and less curious. I use that phrase they became less interesting and less interested. Their sense of natural awe seemed to have been taken over because they were perpetually stimulated, cradle to adolescence. So this sense of looking up at the night sky and saying "Gee, I wonder what's out there".

Plato talked about all philosophy begins with a sense of wonder but what we're finding out is that a lot of these children - again, that I've worked with - don't have that natural curiosity anymore. What they have is an addictive thirst to be stimulated but they don't have that natural "Gee whiz. I wonder how" kind of aspect. That's what we're robbing them of. It's funny you say that because with tablets they've even sold the narrative that it could be a surrogate for interpersonal experience. Disgustingly, I was reading just last month - I forget which city and hospital it was - but that the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) in a particular American city were beginning to give infants in the NICU a tablet so they could see their mother on the screen and form a bond with her through the screen.

What we know is they've done research where they've shown that children can't learn language from a digital model, that they've used digital software with iPads and children, for whatever reason, can't learn language and phonetics through a digital screen, even though you would think it's the same sounds being formed, but there's something about needing the actual physical human being. They found that baby birds can't mimic digitally recorded bird sounds. It has to be a live bird for them to model the sounds for them to be able to mimic it.

So there's a very important aspect of the human connection and when we start dropping tablets into cribs, we're doing a lot of damage. And we're not going to really see the full results of that until 20 or 30 years from now, unfortunately.

Tiffany: I shudder to think what that would look like. But I notice what you mentioned about kids just being uninteresting and not curious. There was a time when you would go to a family gathering and you'd talk to the kids and it would be so much fun and interesting just because of the funny things that they would say, but now they all have their heads shoved into a tablet or playing on a phone.

Dr. K: Right.

Tiffany: This was some years ago, a little cousin of mine, probably 7 or 8 at the time and she had these pieces of paper. We cut up some pieces of paper and we were going to play a game. I thought it was going to be a card game so I was going to let her make up the card game. But she just had me tap on the pieces of paper. I was thinking "This is the game?" She was like "Tap this one. Okay now tap this one. Now tap this one." And that was the game to her and I was thinking "Oh my god! That is just so sad. So sad."

Dr. K: Yeah. It goes back to what we were saying about some of the searing effect. I had a child of a friend of my wife's who woke up and he couldn't get Minecraft out of his mind. And by the way Gortari and Griffiths, when they did the game transfer phenomena study, there were 6 and 7 years olds that were beginning to see the real world in cube form. They were seeing trees in the shape of Minecraft cubes. It was beginning to shape how they perceived the world. And again, these were fairly common. These were much more common than most people experienced. Again, we might hear about the Adam Lanzas or the young man that I had that got hospitalized, but almost every gamer that I've spoken to has had experiences of "Oh yeah, yeah, there were times when I couldn't get that voice out of my head", the command voices from the game or some visual aspect of the game. So there's that reality blurring and then there's that creativity dampening that we've talked about.

So what do we do? It's all under the banner of educational. That's the mission statement. I've talked to school administrators and principals and superintendents and they all mouth the company line. "Well these are educational". And then when you ask them to prove it - "Okay, well show me the research that a 5-year-old with a tablets going to have a better educational outcomes when they're in middle school or high school." You get a basic version of hummina, hummina, hummina. So you ask them "So it's educational because who says it's educational? The technology rep who's come to your school and sold you a $300 million software and hardware package says that it's educational? The box says that it's educational? That's why we've bought this false narrative?"

So that's kind of my mission statement, to really raise awareness and to show as much of the research as I can about the clinically damaging aspects of some of this technology and to really call to task the key gatekeepers of our society - I call them digital Trojan horses - that we've allowed these digital Trojan Horses into our homes and into our classrooms and out of this Trojan horse has come ADHD, addiction, depression, social interpersonal dampening effects, psychosis, all under the pretence of somehow connectivity, or educational. And it's all a scam essentially.

I'm not going to say it's entirely a scam because there is obviously a benefit for technology, but my whole narrative is age appropriate. Cars are wonderful, but you don't let a 7-year-old drive a car. So in the same vein, we talk about helping the child fully develop neurologically. Joseph Chilton Pearce, a seminal mind when it comes to education development talked about this as well. Let the child's brain fully develop in the most natural and the most creative way possible and then once that developed brain has reached maturity, then you can access technology or launch into the stratosphere. But to pre-empt that process and to drop technology too early into the developmental curve is developmentally stunting and damaging.

And that's what people are beginning to realize now. They're just beginning to wake up to that as we start seeing some of these effects.

Erica: In your book you talk about as we've been talking about here, real experiences versus digital experiences. Speaking of Joseph Chilton Pearce, can you share some of the research he did about the ability to distinguish sounds and colours.

Dr. K: Right. He quoted some of the research from the University of Tubingen in Germany. In the early '60s they were beginning to realize at that university, that each cohort that was coming up through the university seemed like they were sensorily a little bit more dampened, that they couldn't hear and perceive as well. That was after the onset of television and the working hypothesis was that maybe these screen technologies were having a sort of desensitizing effect on our senses.

So what they did at the University of Tubingen over a period of decades was to measure the sensory acuity of both sound and colour over the next, I believe 20 year longitudinal study. They essentially found that we're losing our ability to perceive colour and sound to the magnitude of one percent a year. Just by way of example, the average person in Germany in the late 1960s was able to perceive roughly 300 shades of red and by the 1980s it was about 150 shades of red and by the 1990s it became about 75 shades of red. As we kept getting bombarded by this hyper-stimulating visual or digital world - our world has become so flashing and so loud - with that desensitization we're going to eventually reach a point where we're going to barely be able to perceive any nuances of sight and sound.

The other person that Pearce quoted was Marsha McCullick. Marsha McCullick was an anthropologist that studied indigenous cultures and she had found that indigenous kids, what we used to dismissively call the "poor primitives". The poor primitives had 30% higher sensory acuity. These kids were more tuned into their environmental sights and sounds to a degree of 30%. Additional Marsha McCullick found that these "primitives" who had been playing with sticks and doing all the active imagination things I talked about earlier, when they were put into a "modern" educational setting they were able to learn better at a magnitude of times two of the modern children who were raised in industrialized society. It seemed that their brains were more powerful. It seemed that they were able to learn better because they had been raised in what we would consider a more primitive way yet their brains were sponge-like and were more able to learn, were more able to absorb.

To me these are very powerful and telling studies that are clues as to some of the damages that we're doing with this bombardment through this whole generation.

Elliot: That's absolutely fascinating. I actually work in a school for children with special needs and it's quite a little different from when I was at school as a child. Now within the class, as you were saying, they seem to have really integrated these tablet devices and it's so common that we'll get the tablets out and that is how they will learn the lesson essentially. It's really quite disturbing considering all of this information and it really makes me wonder because some of these children have been labelled with things like ADHD and they're on the autistic spectrum or they've been given another sort of label.

Dr. K: Right.

Elliot: But it really makes me wonder how much of this is actually due to this constant stimulating effect of these types of games and devices. When I speak to the children, a lot of them play MineCraft for instance and it's a constant thing. I just find it so disturbing.

Dr. K: Yeah, they've sold it as digital Lego and it's the furthest thing from it. You have no hand-to-eye. So exactly what you're saying is there's the rub, right? You have a child who has an underlying vulnerability of ADHD and yet you're giving that child this hyper-stimulating device which a lot of theorize is causing the ADHD and so you're perpetuating that vicious cycle. And what some people think is "Well my ADHD child seems to be so engaged in front of the screen. Their ability to focus seems wonderful when they're in front of the screen". Well there was a wonderful New York Times article a couple of years back focused on screens and on nothing else and that was written by an NYU professor who talked about that, that the ADHD child, when they're focusing on the screen that's not really attention. They're getting these bursts of stimulation that's kind of bells and whistles to keep them engaged, but that's not really engaging the child in any meaningful way. That's just kind of distracting them.

The other vulnerable population that you mentioned, autism, I've worked a lot with autistic children. Now I will say that that's the only aspect of technology that can be useful with spectrum children, is non-verbal autistic children to communicate with a keypad. In that sense, that's one of the few and limited uses of technology that can be beneficial in my humble opinion. But when it's a high functioning, or an Asperger's or a fairly high functioning spectrum child, what they need is social interaction, social skills training because it's the panacea for the spectrum.

So when you give those children a device that robs them of their social interaction, you're exacerbating the problem so significantly.
I was talking to a school superintendent a few months back and she had an autistic son who was about 8 years old a while back and they wanted to give him a tablet. She had an involved psychiatrist who said "Take that tablet away from that boy as quickly as you can" and she said it was the best thing that she ever did because she took the tablet away and now her son has graduated from college and it's 15 years later and he essentially developed into a normal boy. And she said to me, "I can swear to you that if he'd kept that tablet the outcome would have been drastically different than the positive outcome we had because we took away that tablet."

I can also refer you to one other powerful example regarding exactly what you just said about the device causing some of these disorders. Victoria Dunckley is an adolescent psychiatrist who's also written a book called Resetting Your Child's Brain and she has also worked with over a thousand young people with various underlying vulnerabilities over the last 10 or 15 years. She will not diagnose or prescribe anything to a child or an adolescent until they have gone through a six-week digital detox because she wants to see what role is their media exposure is playing. What she has said is that roughly 70% of the time the symptoms go away when the child is in digital detox.

So when she has a child that's brought in with ADHD, with a conduct disorder, with some kind of mood dysregulation and they allow their systems to recalibrate, to go back to baseline by essentially detoxing off of this stimulant. The symptoms, more often than not, go away and that's enough. Rather than prescribing more medications to treat the symptoms she tries to do as a rule-out, is this potentially a by-product of their digital exposure. What she's seeing is that it is, including attentional effects, even spectrum effects. She sees children that were presenting as having spectrum disorders whose spectrum symptomology either entirely went away or got very much minimized, would be taking away electronic devices.

So we're getting powerful bits of information that can really help guide us and we're all beginning to sort of unify as a voice to educate parents, to just raise some awareness so at least parents have the information to begin to make some of these choices for themselves and see that what they're being told isn't always accurate by the schools or from their paediatricians.

Jonathan: Dr. K I have a question that might be a little bit more on the speculative side of things but I'm curious about what you think. One of our chatters brought up the idea that the powers that be, so to speak, are contributing to creating a generation of dumbed-down citizens.

Dr. K: Right.

Jonathan: People who are more robotic, more easily controlled workers and that kind of thing. On this show in the past we've discussed a number of times the education system in the west which is not speculative that that was actually created with the intention of creating more complacent, easily controlled workers in the citizenry. How much do you think that that's a function of this phenomenon as opposed to what might just be an unfortunate accident, like a combination of a high profit margin and a highly advancing technical industry where this might just be an accidental by-product of that? Or do you think there are maybe some more nefarious things under the surface? I know that's speculative, but I'm curious what your thoughts are.

Dr. K: Yeah. So in my book I talk about Neil Postman. Neil Postman was a pretty visionary professor at NYU in the mid-1980s and Neil Postman wrote a book in 1985 called Amusing Ourselves to Death and he at that point was analogizing the new digital media back in 1985 - it was television let's keep in mind - as being analogous to soma in Brave New World and keeping the masses sedated, basically stupefying the masses. And he did talk about a political context that it was a form of mass sedation, digital opiate to the masses. I can tell you that as an addictions professor, we know that during slavery times, slave masters used to give a bottle of moonshine to young male black slaves every Saturday and it wasn't a reward. It was to keep them drunk and compliant and not able to see the landscape of the cage that they were being kept in.

So I do think that there's some agenda to this. I don't think it's just purely an unfortunate by-product of greed although there is that. Look, Rupert Murdoch invested $1 billion into education technology. Yes, there was a greed factor to that but Rupert Murdoch is not known to be that inclined to care about the educational process in the United States of America. He invested a billion dollars to a company called Amplify then he hired Joe Klein who was the former chancellor of the New York City school system to be essentially his educational shill, his front man for this company.
There were a lot of people that were concerned about somebody that's so politically involved and so involved in our mass media should be not only involved in our educational system so profoundly but to be also data mining because the tablets that they were creating had iris-tracking recognition software that would track what children were looking at, where their eyes were moving. It was all very Big Brother-type stuff.

So I don't think a lot of this is accidental. I think a lot of this is by design. But to be accepted into the mainstream dialogue I think we have to be a little bit careful about that. But I personally think there is a nefarious aspect to this.

Jonathan: Sure. One of the parts of that concept that makes me real curious about it is that you would think, aside from the nefarious side of this technology and its dopaminergic effects and the fact that it's addictive, it really is incredible. We have this almost like Star Trek technology where we can access pretty much any piece of information from the planet. Granted if you set aside the whole issue of misinformation on the internet and all of that, you really have the ability to access so much information. And you would think that in pace with that, people would be taking advantage of it and becoming more intelligent, more informed, able to do their own research, self-educated, that these things would go in parallel with that increase in technology. But when you look at it, it seems to be going in the opposite direction. Not to put too simplistic of a point on it, but it feels like people are getting dumber as the technology is becoming more incredible.

Dr. K: Well that's exactly right. It seems to be an inverse ratio, right? The more technology advances, the more we as a species recede. And we talk about that a little bit in our book. The more we use technology as a crutch the more things like our own memory and reason become vestigial organs, the more we atrophy as a species because we become more and more dependent on the crutch. I talk about the basic concept of memory and how nobody has to memorize phone numbers anymore. Twenty years ago we all used to remember about 10 or 15 telephone numbers; our closest friends, our family members. And now if you ask most people to write down five phone numbers of people that they know, they can't because memory's also a muscle that needs to be developed that technology has softened for us.

I totally agree with you with this idea that as technology advances, humanity recedes. You mentioned Star Trek. It's so funny that you mention that because I open up my book by outing myself as a Trekkie. When I was a kid I loved Star Trek. I would watch Captain Kirk and Spock fly to the ends of the universe and I longed for - and I write about this in my book - I wished for the future of Star Trek to arrive. In my 5th grade class I used to make these little communicators out of paper and make believe I was Captain Kirk.

As I write in my book, be careful what you wish for because a lot of that technology is here but with a huge, huge price. I call it a Faustian deal and what we are discovering is what you said, that information technology doesn't equal wisdom. What we're lacking is a lot of wisdom. What we're gaining is information and information unfortunately doesn't lead to anything other than data. And we don't seem to be getting wiser as a species. We seem to be getting dumbed down unfortunately.

Tiffany: Dr. K I wanted to ask you more about your background. I watched an interesting Ted Talk that you gave. I forget when it was, but I watched it last night and you were talking about an experience that you had that showed you how important it is to have purpose and meaning in your life because a lot of addiction is basically seeking purpose and meaning. So can you share a little bit more about that?

Dr. K: Sure. In my prior life I think I had I guess what people would call an existential crisis. I had a loss of purpose and meaning in my life and one of the reasons why I became an addiction psychologist is I developed an addiction in my own life. For me it was looking for love or looking for meaning in all the wrong places. When you have a meaning void in your life - I call it the void - sometimes drugs and alcohol can become a very convenient way to fill the void. That addiction in my life led to an almost fatal situation where I was in a coma for about two weeks and it was emerging out of what I would call a transformative experience that I realized that that's sort of the name of the game, that meaning and purpose seems to be part of our psycho-spiritual DNA and if we don't have that, then a lot of bad things can happen to people. People can drift in very unhealthy ways.

So when I came out of my near-death experience I didn't have the traditional white light experience so I can't say that I saw old family members, I saw god, I can't say anything like that. I can tell you that I came out of the coma and I experienced something that was a profound shift that I needed to align myself to something much more important and meaningful which led me to go back to graduate school and become a psychologist to help people. But it also made me very tuned in to the importance of meaning and purpose, what Victor Frankl used to talk about in Man's Search for Meaning. That's what I started also seeing, that many people who did have addictive problems lacked that and that many of our young people today lack that and that many of our young people today lack that and that in that void is where the escape comes in, the digital escape, the substance escape, the behavioural escapes.

So the antidote isn't to really necessarily demonize the substances but to really help a person find a sense of meaning and purpose so that they're not as vulnerable to some of those traps. Now that's for a more developed young person. I think at age 5 or 6 that child's not necessarily looking for meaning and purpose. That child just needs to let their brain develop and we need to leave them alone so they can develop far enough so that they can find the meaning and purpose in their lives. The average 5 year old isn't asking "What's my purpose? What am I here for?" But when you get a little older you do, but the problem is that if we developmentally damage that child so they can't get to that place where they can be reflective because they're too busy escaping down the digital wormhole, that's when we have a society of soma, of the digital malaise as I call it. It's the digital malaise; uninformed, uninterested, uninteresting young people who are just chasing a feel good experience or an escapist experience.

Doug: I was going to ask actually because a lot of what we're talking about is in the videogame aspects and things that are clearly designed to get a person hooked and keep them playing, but I'm wondering about things like social media.

Dr. K: Right.

Doug: Or something that our listeners can relate to a little more because I don't know if most of our listeners are active gamers. I wouldn't think so. So I'm curious about the implications of stuff that is relatively new but that adults are using.

Dr. K: Yes, it's funny, to me social media is as oxymoronic as military intelligence. Because what we're finding is that's another mischaracterization. Again, we all know that our DNA hard drives us to be social animals. We're social creatures and so if you throw in something called social media it should lead to some positive outcomes. We should be happy campers because we're the most digitally connected species that's ever lived and yet we know that depression rates are skyrocketing. The World Health Organization said that depression by 2020 is going to be the number 2 disabling chronic condition that we have. We know that the social media effect - there has been a lot of research to show this - the more - they're called hyper-networkers - the more of a social media plugged in person you are the worse the mental health and behavioural outcomes.

Case Western University did a lot of the research in this and they found in the hyper-networkers, people who were on social media for more than three hours a day, which by the way by a lot of young people's standards that's kind of a mild use of social media - we're finding that the social connections that happens digitally, it becomes almost a counterfeit social connection. It doesn't really seem to satisfy our deep need for real social connection.

The anthropologist Robin Dunbar years ago came up with what was called the Dunbar's number. He had studied primate grooming groups and he had found that primates clustered in the same numbers that humans do and that typically the average primate and the average human code in our minds and in our social lives about 150 contacts, social acquaintances. But we needed about three-to-five close personal friends to be emotionally and mentally healthy and that absent that - there's been a lot of research about what happens to people in social isolation. They literally go insane. They get a lot of physiological effects. That work was done by Dr. Hebb in the 1950s where people were going insane in social isolation within 72 hours.

Well what happened is it seemed that the social connection that we were forming through the digital landscape wasn't fulfilling those social needs that we have for human contact so the Dunbar number of three-to-five people, if I have 500 Facebook friends, they're not serving the social needs that I have. And what we found out is that in fact we have the Facebook depression effect and that was ascribed to two different reasons. The Facebook depression effect was theorized to be the comparison effect because let's face it, on Facebook we don't post our pictures when we're frustrated or struggling or we're depressed. We post our happier facades on Facebook. "Here's me on my vacation smiling and happy". So if I'm having a bad day and I'm scrolling through my Facebook feed and I'm seeing vacation shots of my happy friends, it amplifies my own "God my life sucks!" effect. So that's one aspect of it.

And the other part of it is they studied people and test them afterwards and found that the more time they spent on social media the more depressed they would be because they found that it was an empty use of their time. It didn't really fill their human social needs in the way that they thought. They also found with adolescents and young people, the more time people spent either hyper-networking or hyper-texting, the more the negative behavioural aspects hit, the more likely they were to engage in drug and alcohol behaviour and multiple sex partners and acting out conduct episodes.

So it just seemed that there was a negative aspect to this so-called social connection that we were forming because it was giving us the illusion of social connection but really essentially robbing us of real interpersonal human connections. So people were making less eye contact.
That was the other thing that was really important. There was research that shows that for a face-to-face interaction to be what's considered psychologically and socially meaningful, eye contact needs to be maintained throughout 70% of that interaction. What they were finding now is that teenagers were making eye contact 30% of the time in social interactions. And that's important. The eye contact is the human-to-human resonance, the effect that needs to be happening. We don't get that on Facebook. You don't get a pat on the back on Facebook.

That was the other thing that Dunbar, the anthropologist's findings found. Primate grooming was a very emotionally important part of primate culture because of the touch and touch released certain endorphins that were critically important. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. I tap your knee, you tap mine. Touch was really important and we weren't touching each other anymore through social media.

So there were those negative impacts. What we found too was that the impacts of social media were sort of along a gender divide. It seemed that the adverse effects of the digital landscape was that that gaming tended to fall on the boys' side of the equation and social media tended to impact the female side of the equation, kind of like "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus". For a variety of reasons social media feeds certain nurturing and sort of social tendencies of young females and unfortunately it also amplifies negative effects of young females, the mean girl effect. The mean girl effect and cyber bullying gets vastly amplified by social media.

So 20 years ago if you were a "mean girl" that was bullying your friend Suzy at the cafeteria table next to you, okay, that had its impact but now you can go viral with some taunts and next thing you know there's 10,000 students that have seen your taunts and that amplification is what's led to this explosion of adolescent suicides. So that's the dark side of social media.

This is a depressing conversation.

Jonathan: Referencing back to what I had mentioned earlier about the compulsory schooling system, we've talked in the past about the work of John Taylor Gatto. I don't know if you're familiar with him. He's a very interesting character. But he has a phrase that I think he kind of coined which is artificially extended childhood.

Dr. K: Yeah.

Jonathan: And the idea that give or take anywhere from 80 to 100 years ago you were a mature, responsible, working adult by the time you were 16 or 17 years old, and perhaps even younger in certain cases. And now people are not reaching that level of maturity until their mid-20s to early 30s, even later.

Dr. K: If that. Absolutely. I talk about that in my book as well, that failure to launch syndrome. Right.

Jonathan: Well that's what I was going to ask. Do you think that the screen addiction is contributing to that phenomena?

Dr. K: Absolutely. What was his name? A famous psychologist who wrote about this as well and included gaming for the young male failure to launch syndrome. Absolutely because let's face it. If you're a young male, what's going to dampen your mental process? Well any kind of addiction. If you're in your mother's basement smoking pot or playing video games or doing heroin, you're not going to fully mature in the way that you should because you're being stunted. You're stuck. Any addiction will keep a person stuck.

So I definitely think a big aspect of this failure to launch syndrome where we're seeing 35-year-old quasi-adolescents living in their parents' basement. I know that there's social-economic factors in the job marketplace and all that that can contribute to some of this, but I think the end of that spectrum is true as well, that there are certain conditions that have led that young person to be more or less compromised in being able to find a job because they are their own instant gratification tendencies. Because let's face it, gaming and any kind of addiction is an impulse control disorder that feeds into instant gratification. Well a 25 or 30-year-old that gets instantly gratified by feeding into any addiction is not going to have the patience or resilience to go out on an extended job search, fill out resumes and go office-to-office knocking on doors because they're used to pushing a button, game on, reset and playing another game.

So it's a very toxic sort of loop. Conversely though, even though we have these 35-year-old adolescent man/boys, what I've found shocking is working with 16 year olds who have seen things that you and I can't even imagine in terms of graphic violent or sexual content. There are websites out there. I was doing a 16-year-old gaming group and they were warning me not to go on a particular website. They had just watched dismemberment and decapitation videos. Let's face it. You can access any horrific scene you want to right now at the tip of your fingertips and kids know how to bypass all of the security filters. The one young man said to me "I can't get these horrific images out of my head". And then he would say to me "Dr. Karadaras, please don't go on that website. You won't be able to unsee what you've seen".

So they're 35-year-old man/boys but paradoxically they've also seen things that we can't even imagine at very precocious ages which has a weird effect. So they're living in mom's basement but they've seen horror things that we can't even visualize, nor do we want to visualize I think.

Jonathan: Of course we would say nobody in humanity should ever have to see something like that, whether it be in a video or in war, or in interpersonal violence and things like that. We would hope that it would never happen but I agree the idea that people who are developmentally stunted who have access to that kind of thing, it's almost like it's creating a PTSD in an environment...

Dr. K: Yes.

Jonathan: ...which is not commensurate to that. When somebody comes back from a war or if somebody has grown up in a gang situation with a lot of violence or something like that, you can understand where their PTSD would come from.

Dr. K: Right.

Jonathan: In these cases it's like suburbanite kids who have grown up without any real hardship in their lives but their getting PTSD from the media input. It's like a push and pull condition.

Dr. K: Right. And they show the same hypervigilant features of PTSD as a trauma victim, some of these kids. And that's probably why it sometimes gets misdiagnosed as ADHD, that twitchy, hyperkinetic, unable to sit still, that's the hypervigilance that we see with PTSD where kids are very jumpy and they don't have a sense of calm about them because of that stimulation.

You reminded me when you talked about the war peace and talking about the nefarious aspects of some of this technology, they used to talk back in the 1930s and '40s, war films that used to help ramp up the volunteerism for the army. If you go into some of the recruitment centres, they look like the back of video game parlours. They have Call of Duty and Tank Commander type games. I worked with one young man who played Call of Duty for a marathon stretch for 72 hours one weekend. He came in to see me on a Monday and he said "I did it! I signed up! I signed up for the marines this morning." And I said "You did what?" And he said "I signed up for the marines because I was really amped up and now I can go do the real thing". And I said "You know there's no off button on that thing, right, that once you go there?"

So it's this idea that we are also desensitizing a large population of our young boys/men to war experiences, to combat experiences. So it's just been a natural extension for them to actually become real soldiers and go do the real thing as they say sometimes. So that's problematic obviously, as well.

Tiffany: Well this is kind of a depressing topic but I wanted to get your thoughts on what you think the future might hold. Do you think we're completely ruined as a species? I can't think of any way that we can turn back the clock on a lot of this technology that's coming out. You've written about what your protocol is for a digital detox, but what are your thoughts on the future? Is there any way around this?

Dr. K: Yeah. I mean, look, obviously the genie's been let out of the bottle and I don't think we're going to go to a Luddite Amish-like society although maybe that will happen at some point after the big problems really arise. But I think now with the growing awareness that the potential in this is beginning to shift in the sense where people are beginning to become more aware. I analogize a lot of this back to the smoking industry, the smoking awareness campaign. Back in the 1940s and '50s smoking was wonderful, it was part of our popular culture. Everybody in the movie had a cigarette in their mouths.

The cigarette companies by the 1950s new that there were carcinogens. It took some class action lawsuits. It took some public awareness to eventually scale back our habits and our behaviours around smoking. I think similarly by raising awareness of some of the digital effects, I wouldn't say get rid of our technological world, but to become aware, like with cigarettes that this is not without consequences and we don't want to have certainly our youngest and most vulnerable exposed to it and if we can begin to limiting exposure, age of onset exposure, create this awareness and use it more judiciously and thoughtfully, I think there's hope.

I think part of the potential shift back is to also really appreciate the importance of real life nature experiences, immersion in the "real world" and to begin to create that balance in a way that's supported both in school settings and in home settings. So there is hope that this has maybe peaked and maybe with some conversation like the ones that we're having now, people begin to think more before they drop the tablet into the crib, as I say. So yeah, I am an optimist by nature. As you said, this can be a depressing conversation. It's because I'm an optimist that I'm trying to fight this fight and raise the awareness that I think is so critically important because it is a culture-defining issue.

What are we going to look like as a species in 30 years if we continue? Are we going to all be wearing holographic headsets walking around in a virtual world, living on second life? Which by the way can be one of the trajectories. If you go watch a Ted Talk by Alex Kipman, the guy who invented the Hololens. He's got this very Germanic accent and he looks like a mad scientist, got the long greasy hair and he talks like a crazy man about a future world where we will all interact in a virtual, holographic landscape. That's his vision and in some perverse way, if you watch his Ted Talk, he says that somehow it's going to bring us closer to our humanity if we're all wearing these headsets. It's perverse and it's bizarre and it scared the bejeezus out of me when I saw it because this is the guy that's driving the bus. This is the guy that's driving the digital bus for Microsoft.

So there's that piece of it. Some of these mad scientists are trying to create the choices for our families and our children. So I just think the more awareness we have about some of this the more we're able on a grassroots level, to have some pushback. That's why in my book I have the screen opt-out letter. You can give this to your school district and say "I don't want my kid to have a tablet before he's in sixth grade. Don't give my first-grader a screen. And here's a list of the clinical reasons why and I have the right as a parent to request that my child be taught in the traditional manner."

I'm having a lot of support from literally hundreds of groups around the country that are beginning to push back on their schools, the technology companies in our petitioning and our writing and are getting active about this cause. I do think it's an important cause, to not passively accept but to begin to fight back over it.

Erica: I notice that in your book, and I watched some of your other interviews that you've done on television, I just wanted to get some feedback from you on parents. I can't remember which actual show you were on where the woman said "Well isn't this a bunch of scaremongering? You're just scaremongering parents."

Dr. K: Yeah.

Erica: I found your book so helpful in the sense of, as you've been sharing on the show today, the reality of the brain effects and all the aspects of it. But I'm interested in the feedback you've gotten since you published this book last year. I know you shared before the show information about some legislation and maybe you can share with our listeners things that are happening as a response to you putting out this information.

Dr. K: Ninety-nine percent of the emails and calls I've gotten have been overwhelmingly supportive, parents that have said "Thank you". And then I get the horror stories. I can't you the number of horror stories I've gotten, "My 9-year-old this", "My 8-year old changed", horrific stories of well-intentioned parents who listened to their schools or to their paediatrician and then had some horrible outcomes with their young child.

And by the way, to that I will say I am scaremongering. I want to scare parents to wake them up because it's a scary issue! It's like saying "Are you scaremongering about cigarettes and lung cancer?" Yeah, it's a scary issue. It's interesting that overwhelmingly, an amazing amount of support both nationally and internationally - I've been asked to speak everywhere from all over this country to going to New Zealand to do a three-city speaking tour in New Zealand in their school systems because they're very tuned into some of the effects of these problems.

But the big media, this is always the message. I've gotten a lot of national exposure. It's interesting, they had me on Good Morning America and they had pre-recorded my interview in the studio the day before and then they had their own medical expert, Dr. Besser do a contradictory because I've been using this narrative of digital heroin, that this is as addictive as heroin. So without allowing me to sort of rebut, Dr. Besser thought that it was overstating the issue and well, in light of the opiate epidemic with all the mortality rates, calling it digital heroin was excessive on my part.
I would have responded had I had the opportunity to be in the studio to say that I'm not saying that this is going to have the mortality rates of heroin. I work with opiate addicts. I run a drug and alcohol rehab. I don't take the opiate epidemic lightly. But because I don't take the opiate epidemic lightly, I do think this is another manifestation of an addictive disorder. It absolutely affects the brain neurologically the same way as an addictive substance, obviously without the same potential for fatal overdose. But is it addicting to your child? Absolutely!

So I've been embraced enormously by a lot of grassroots parenting groups. I mentioned to you before we spoke about the one mother in Maryland who got legislation that's winding its way through the Maryland state legislature to limit screen time in schools. Her name is Cindy Eckard and that could be a potential model for other states. If that becomes successful legislation other states can then begin to rein back the screens and the tablets in the school classrooms.

I've been contacted by a couple of class action lawsuit attorneys that want to file class action lawsuits against some of the technology companies, essentially saying that they were aware of some of these clinical effects and the end result that I'd like to have is I'd like to have warning labels on screens and the warning label would say "Excessive screen usage CAN lead to clinical disorders in children". And I think that's factually incontrovertible but obviously that's not something that the screen companies would like to have but it's something that I think is necessary and will eventually happen.

So those are some of the responses that I've been getting back from a lot of people. Then of course I do get some of the gamers that are deep in the gaming bunker who have attacked me, because essentially I'm attacking their religion cure. Some of these gamers are very deep in the bunker and I'm not singing a tune that they like to hear. As I said, I'm not against technology per se. I think my editor edited it out of the book, but I had said in the original draft that I hope that if you're past pimple-popping age and you want to game, go ahead. Go ahead, game away. I'm a libertarian. But don't expose it to the 5, 8, 9 and 10-year olds because they don't have a choice in this yet, but if you're over 17 or 18 and you want to sit in your mom's basement and game away, have at it!

Tiffany: Well this is technically a free will universe. I think that there might be a split, people who choose reality and people who don't and I think that might come across in a lot of different aspects, not just this technology aspect. But I wanted to ask you, since we're coming up close to the time for our show, if you can give your digital detox treatment protocol, how you go about it, not just for children but for adults who want to get away from tablets and social media and want to unplug from the matrix so to day?

Dr. K: Right. So the only thing that does work is to unplug for a period of four-to-six weeks. That's how much time it takes for your adrenal system to recalibrate itself, to really reset. Dr. Victoria Dunckley in her book, Resetting Your Child's Brain talks about doing it as a cold turkey digital detox. My recommendation is a little bit more gradual because I'm an addictions specialist and we tend to detox people gradually rather than abruptly because you tend to see more of the explosive, aggressive behaviour when you cold turkey someone, even an 8-year-old.

A lot of people that we've worked with have had - I'll say it - violent, aggressive children when you take away the computer. The first 24 to 48 hours you can see holes getting punched through walls or things getting thrown. If you do it gradually, what I recommend is sort of cutting back an hour at a time to eventually getting to zero and then once you get to zero, maintaining abstinence for four weeks and then you get the same effect.
But the key is not just taking away the screen, the key is to replace that with something that is real world experience. So you don't just take away your child's computer and let him sit in a room staring at the wall, you have to then take him to the park or have them paint or draw or create music or join an after school club. Do something. That's the key. The key is to replace the digital behaviour with some real life experiences rather than just take away the digital experience and then just have them sit there.

So we've had good results with that and kids who have done that have done well. Just to be totally transparent, it doesn't always work. I've had a couple of young people that went away to therapeutic schools for a year where they had no digital exposure and once they got back home and went back on the screen, they fell right down the rabbit hole again. Some kids seem to be able to go back to "normal" usage after they've digitally detoxed and some kids seem to not be able to. So that's a caveat that I'm putting out there ahead of time.

This is a brave new world and a brave new addiction that we don't have as much data yet on as we do with things like alcoholism and opiate addiction where we have very established protocols and guidelines. The issue is with something like drugs and alcohol a person can be entirely abstinent. It's almost impossible to be entirely abstinent of technology in society. So you can digitally detox a young person and then you have to monitor their reintegration back into technology exposure and the ouch point is seeing if that young person starts getting what we call mood dysregulated.

So if you're giving them back the computer for half an hour a day and they seem to be okay, then that's fine. Once they go back to an hour a day do they start getting very aggressive when it's taken away? That's when you have to say "Okay, this is the object one. I need to cap it at 45 minutes." But that takes close monitoring. Again, the key is to help balance out that young person's life with other types of experiences. That's the holy grail in this whole thing. So those are my suggestions.

Erica: Well thank you so much Dr. K for sharing so much with us today. It really is quite frightening and overwhelming.

Dr. K: I'm a scaremonger.

Erica: We tend to do that sometimes.

Tiffany: It's reality.

Erica: Do any of our co-hosts have anything else they'd like to ask Dr. K before we let him continue on his journey of sharing this information far and wide?

Tiffany: No.

Jonathan: Dr. K I would just say thank you for the work that you do and it's very important. I don't know how often you hear that from people. I'm sure you do in your work day-to-day, but I have some experience with addiction myself and I have friends who have as well and people who do your kind of work are vitally important to our culture and society so thank you very much.

Dr. K: Thank you. I appreciate that. Thank you.

Erica: I agree. For anyone who's interested Dr. Karadaras' book is called Glow Kids, How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids-and How to Break the Tranceand it is well worth a read, as you were saying, not just if you're a parent but just living in this Brave New E-World, how to cope and unplug and take opportunities to walk outside and get grounded and use your active imagination, have balance. Is there anything else you'd like to share with our listeners Dr. K?

Dr. K: Just be careful of the glow and thank you for having me on. I really do appreciate the opportunity. Thank you again.

Erica: Please follow up any articles that you write or new information that you come out with, we would love to share it on the SOTT. We have a whole Health and Wellness section in addition to Society's Child and Puppet Masters and Science and Technology, so we like to get this information out to our listeners and our readers because it helps us navigate as things get more and more Trekkie out there.

Dr. K: More and more Trekkie. Well put.

Erica: Alright, thank you all for listening in and please tune in to Sunday's show, another interesting topic to be determined. We will see you all next week. Have a great Friday.

All: Good-byes.