Glow Kids by Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, a neuropsychologist and a leading addiction expert, is a scary book. But it’s an important one, especially if there are young people in your life. The first half of the subtitle encapsulates the book’s theme – “How Screen Addiction is Hijacking Our Kids.” But though the second half of the subtitle – “How to Break the Trance” – implies that all may not be lost, the overwhelming evidence Dr. Kardaras presents about how age-inappropriate video games – he calls them “digital cocaine” – and too much social media may suggest otherwise. Case after case study show that addiction to the Internet plays a major role in driving some adolescent killer-game enthusiasts to psychopathic behavior.
He’s also convinced that ordinary kids, with no psychological problems are adversely affected by excessive reliance on technology. He cites a diminution in attention span, focus, imagination, not to mention physical fitness. Particularly disturbing are the cases Dr. Kardaras describes that he himself worked on of so-called normal, once well-adjusted youngsters from caring homes whom he could not help. There’s just so much parents and psychotherapists can do, in some instances. And do in time.
Glow Kids is quite an indictment, one that’s not new, but one that’s so effectively argued that it’s bound to have immediate effect. Or should have. Of course he knows technology per se does not cause addiction. But his research shows that it can injuriously contribute to “underlying perfect storm of genetic, psychological, environmental and neurobiological factors.”
There’s a lot to absorb in the numerous studies cited here but the research is accessible and persuasive and Dr. Kardaras is fair as he is passionate. He takes on the opposition and what he sees as its flawed findings. He criticizes those who make millions off video games such as Minecraft, “the best-selling computer game of all time.” He also goes after “gold rush” opportunists who sell to schools under the buzzword phrase “educational technology.” He says they offer more entertainment than education.
What to do to break the trance? Something along the lines of what Dr. Kardaras does in his practice, with a program called SeaLab – get kids back to nature, get them into a Walden like experience where they can connect with the real sensual world, and with others. He’d also like parents and schools to advocate for a warning to be put on tablets and smartphones: “Excess usage by children can lead to clinical depression.”
The book is no downer, however, and Dr. Kardaras is no Luddite. He likes and relies on his electronic devices and he realizes their significance and fun, especially for pre-teens and adolescents. His concern is addiction. His goal – to turn compulsive, obsessive “heads down, glossy-eyed” zombies into appreciative and reasonable users of technology.