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Jenny Radesky
Jenny Radesky

Is ‘Digital Addiction’ a Real Threat to Kids?

The New York Times 5/20/19

As we worriedly watch our children navigate the ever-changing digital landscape, there’s a great deal of talk these days about “digital addiction.” But several experts say we should teach kids to think of screens as something to handle in moderation, like food, rather than something without any healthy place in our lives, like meth or heroin.

Children’s use of devices ranges along a continuum from healthy to compulsive to addictive, said Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, the director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington. “I think the phenomenon of tech addiction is quite real,” he said.

In a commentary published last week in JAMA, Dr. Christakis suggested that the relationship between media exposure and health in adolescents might turn out to follow an “inverted U” pattern, that is, that very high exposure and very low exposure might both be associated with poorer mental health outcomes than moderate amounts of usage.

Technology use is not analogous to drug use, because these devices serve important purposes in children’s lives and adolescents’ lives — indeed, in all our lives. Since most of us depend on technology to do our jobs and stay connected, we — and our children — need to find healthy ways to use it, sometimes quite intensely, without letting it take over.

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