Nicholas Kardaras, author of Glow Kids, frightened a Westhampton Library audience March 3 with graphic descriptions of the negative effects of excessive screen time on the brains of children and teenagers.
“Kardaras was an amazing, knowledgeable and informative speaker, warning of the dangers of video games, social media, cellphones, etc., on everyone and especially children,” said Wendy Wax, author of books for children, who was in the audience of 17 at the noon to 2 p.m. event and covered for O'Dwyer's.
Her books include Renoir and the Boy with the Long Hair and City Witch, Country Witch. She also has a consulting business for new children's book authors and is recommended by the Society of Children's Book Authors and Illustrators.
Kardaras, who has appeared on Fox & Friends, ABC-TV, Katie Couric’s Yahoo! show and 30+ radio programs, as well as at the Sag Harbor and Southampton libraries, both night time events, said: “Today’s children are in a mass social experiment, and we won’t know its full impact until 20 years from now.”
He said there are plenty of signs of negative impacts already.
Schoolchildren who are addicted to games are too hyped-up even to take notes, he said. Many are put on Ritalin for the wrong reasons. “They’ve become hyper-aroused and addicted to screens and instant gratification.”
Attention is gained by “constant rewards.” Viewers of TV commercials, he noted, are assaulted with constantly changing images to “grab their attention.”
Public “Consciously Under-Informed”
A principal message of Kardaras is that the public has been “consciously under-informed about the negative effects of too much screen time on children and teenagers even though the research is there.” Screens are “visual Trojan Horses” that undermine education, he said.
Although the Kardaras book was published last August, it was not until March 3, the first “National Day of Unplugging,” that the Westhampton Library scheduled him as a speaker. He lives in Sag Harbor and is executive director of The Dunes, rehab clinic in East Hampton. He spoke to the Sag Harbor library last Sept. 8.
Members of audience who asked what they can do were told to confront school principals, library staffers and others with requests to be shown any study that “proves computers have any educational efficacy.”
It is “evil to get children hooked on games that have the same reward mechanism as slot machines” and evil for companies to get “innocent kids to be beta-testers, getting them addicted to games,” he said.
Tech execs put their own children in “no-tech Waldorf Schools,” he notes.
The meeting was held in a room where bridge and other groups meet. The routers in the ceiling create high levels of pulsed, electromagnetic radiation as measured by an Acoustimeter used in the room by this reporter. Other rooms in the library also show high levels of radiation.
The library board’s position, based on findings by the Federal Communications Commission, is that the radiation does not heat bodily tissues and is therefore not a danger.
Not present at the meeting was library director Danielle Waskiewicz who said she was busy at a meeting on water conservation and a landscape forum. She noted her adult program director introduced Kardaras.
ADHD on Increase
Current clinical research, said Kardaras, correlates excessive screen time with disorders such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, addiction, anxiety, depression, increased aggression, and even psychosis.
Recent brain imaging studies show that excessive screen exposure can damage a young person’s developing brain in the same way that drug addiction can, he said.
Three of his adolescent patients were “psychiatrically hospitalized because screen games blurred their reality until they didn't know what was what.”
He asked one of them, "Do you know where you are?" and the boy said, "Are we still in the game?"
Screens Are Interactive and Immersive
Today’s cellphone and computer screens are “interactive and immersive” and far different from the TV screens that previous generations grew up with, said Kardaras.
There's a stage when children learn language, and if they don't learn language, then the part of the brain used to learn it "hardens, ” and the window for learning language closes, he said.
Children cannot determine what's real and not real, according to Kardaras. Healthcare workers use "attention reality testing" to probe children’s grip on reality. They find "derealization," which is like “a bad acid trip,” and depersonalization, “an out-of-body experience, making a child feel like he/she isn't real.” Games raise dopamine, a neurotransmitter most associated with addiction, as much as sex and chocolate, said Kardaras.
He advises weaning children from screens, having them crumple paper or do pushups or play basketball or do other active things in which they use their senses and their bodies. Allow them to, and want them to, indulge in the feeling of being bored--to counteract "being overstimulated" from the screens.
According to Kardaras, electronics spur the “pleasure circuits” in brains, doubling the amount of dopamine while shrinking the amount of gray matter in the frontal cortex, the decision-making center. Neurological development and verbal intelligence are delayed.