About a week ago, I contacted Brad Huddleston about his book, Digital Cocaine, as its message is one I’ve found very convicting. Brad is overseas right now, speaking to students about the effects of digital addiction. He was kind enough to send me several interviews he recently gave of South African news outlets.
Do you have a child who gets angry easily? Who is struggling with anxiety? Who just seems overstimulated? I sometimes do. As a parent to a teen and up and coming tweens, this is one book I feel is essential to my toolkit.
I found the following interview with Brad Huddleston, the author of Digital Cocaine, to be eye opening as I searched for reasons behind one child’s changes in behavior.
I was shocked to learn that brain scans of the screen addicts were identical to those of cocaine addicts!
It begins with the fact that the digital world is more intensely stimulating than the analog world. Dopamine is released to the pleasure centers of the brain. A tolerance is built up, requiring more and more dopamine to feel that same pleasure. More and more screen time is desired. A person can become emotionally numb as normal life fails to trigger the pleasure centers anymore (a condition called anhedonia). Men can suffer cardiac involvement, while women are prone to anxiety or depression.
An additional problem that many face relates to multitasking. The brain is not made to actually multitask, but to process information sequentially. Children’s homework scores begin to drop as they check apps while they study.
This was immediately convicting to me as I thought about my own distracted parenting. How often do I check Facebook or reply to a message at times I think that I am engaged with my children?
But wait! It couldn’t be screens making me feel so stressed and overwhelmed as I go about my day, could it? I don’t even own a smart phone. It couldn’t be screens causing outbursts of anger in my older children, could it? We mostly use screens for educational purposes.
And yet, the neuroscience seems to indicate a real danger.
So what is the answer?
Brad writes about finding ways to balance screen time with time in the “real” analog world. It isn’t a 50/50 balance, he points out, but more like and 80/20 balance. This would include TV, and even 20 percent of the time utilizing screens is too much for younger children and others who are more vulnerable to screen addiction.
You can order a copy of Digital Cocaine on Brad’s website http://bradhuddleston.com/