Thanks for checking out this edition of Checkable Health's podcast recap, your go-to guide for valuable health and wellness information for moms of school-aged children so they can thrive in motherhood and beyond.
The third part of our podcast's digital series (1 & 2 can be found here) features Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, an Ivy League-educated psychologist, speaker, author, entrepreneur, and one of the country's foremost addiction specialists for over two decades. Patty Post, Checkable's founder and CEO, sat down with Dr. Kardaras for an in-depth one-on-one discussion about social media's negative effect on our children in today's tech era.
Dr. Kardaras is the author of the New York Times best-selling book Glow Kids, which shocked us all with his tech addiction research and findings. But his newest book, Digital Madness, explores how we've become mad for our devices and how our devices are driving us mad. Along with revolutionary research, Dr. Kardaras reveals the damaging effects technology and social media have on mental illness and suicide rates.
Digital Madness was written in response to our country's health crisis due to social media, coming off the heels of a global pandemic. Dr. Kardaras discusses how this digital madness negatively impacts society with never-ending scrolling and constant entertainment. He talks about how the information we digest as parents and the information our kids are absorbing digitally, affects them psychologically. His research indicates that this digital disruption can cause long-term damage and directly correlates with children's and teens' mental health issues and disorders.
In Digital Madness, Dr. Kardaras addresses why young people's mental health is deteriorating as we become a more technologically advanced society. While enthralled with shiny devices and immersed in social apps like Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat, our children are struggling with record rates of depression, loneliness, anxiety, overdoses, and suicide. Dr. Kardaras believes our mental health epidemic is due to immersion in toxic social media that has created polarizing extremes of emotion and addictive dependency. This addiction spreads like a toxic "digital social contagion," causing various psychiatric disorders.
Dr. Kardaras also shares helpful tips on how we can thrive through this digital era and ways we can stay active and connected as humans without causing harm. Digital Madness is a crucial book for parents, educators, therapists, public health professionals, and policymakers searching for ways to restore our young people's mental and physical health.
In the podcast, Patty talks to Dr. Kardaras about his personal experience not just as a doctor but as a father of twin teen boys going through the evolution of this digital era. He's in the thick of it like most parents, so his expertise holds even more credibility.
Dr. Kardaras discusses how when he first wrote Glow Kids five years ago, he was shocked at how unaware that people are not really tuned into the fact that we could get habituated or addicted to our shiny devices as we are now a tech-lubricated society.
Can people be tech-addicted?
Tech addiction is a thing, some are more affected than others, but we're all affected by our digital devices, and it's not by accident. Numerous documentaries and movies have been made over the years about how Facebook and social media came about. They even stated how they used the most evolved and sophisticated behavior modification designs that enable dopamine levels to rise. This elevation causes a person to get hooked and addicted to certain platforms based on this high. Digital Madness explains more about what this addiction is leading to and how.
His book showcases the fascinating research that indicates that in the last 10 to 15 years, as technology advanced, so did mental health issues. According to the World Health Organization, pharmaceutical medications for depression went up 300% and still spiking. Dr. Kardaras believes this correlation is due to our lack of physical movement and exercise and human's innate desire for community. He shares that our bodies are meant to produce certain endorphins like serotonin, which are released naturally when physically active. He believes social media and technology have kept us sedentary and isolated, therefore less movement and fewer face-to-face relationships.
What is even more shocking is that Dr. Kardaras also explains that in addition to depression, there were higher rates of personality disorders, including multiple personality disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome in young adolescent females. He calls these behaviors social contagions, the spread of behaviors, attitudes, and affect through groups or social aggregates from one member to another. For example, smoking can be considered a social contagion. If you hang out with a group of smokers, you will eventually start smoking. Suicide can be considered a social contagion and can be spread by groups in the same fashion.
In one study, research indicates that in the age of social media, thousands of teenage females were showing signs of Tourette's disorder. Typically, it appears and surfaces in childhood and is most common in males. This study had pediatricians wondering why all of these teenage girls suddenly had jerky arm motions, a symptom of Tourette's. This revelation then led them to discover that these girls all had something in common. They found that they were all following a handful of influencers on social apps with Tourette's Syndrome. So now this fascinating idea that birds of a feather flock together really becomes a reality. It is now a social contagion. These impressionable teens mimic what they see and become affected consciously or unconsciously. There are similar results with teens following influencers with personality disorders that get them millions of views switching to over 100 different personas. But what these teens don't know is that these social influencers are really just performing and putting on an act, whereas these teens are now living their life based on that. This is just one way behaviors are spreading virally through social media. Dr. Kardaras goes more into the core of this research in our podcast.
Another social contagion that has ramped up since social media's evolution is mass shootings. Typically, you see these shootings by men, who feel a sense of alienation, emptiness, and no purpose, and for some reason they want to gain some identity by a false sense of power. We saw this happen for the first time in the digital era with Columbine in 1999. Yes, mass shootings did happen prior, but they have been on the rise at an alarming rate since social media began. These are just some more toxic ways social media can sink its teeth into people and shake behavior. Dr. Kardaras also explains more about how eating disorders and gender dysphoria are also new social contagions that need to stop.
The digital age has vacuumed out meaning and purpose. Everything has become so shallow, superficial, and polarized, but toxicity goes way beyond tech addiction. It's affecting our brains and our bodies. Today, most teens are always on their phones texting, not even picking up the phone to say hello. Dr. Kardaras explains that we're losing what is best of life, but he shares ways to break out of this digital madness while reaping social platforms' benefits. There just must be some boundaries, and that's up to the parents to facilitate. It is a parent’s job to offer children an option other than their shiny device, perhaps a book. It's all about balance.
For a deeper dive into Dr. Kardaras and his new book Digital Madness, listen to the full podcast in which he explains firsthand his experience as a psychologist and a father living in a digital age. I also recommend checking out his two books available on Amazon and audiobook.
Tips to Calm the Social Clutter
While we know social media will inevitably be a part of your child's life, the main message here is to set boundaries. Dr. Kardaras believes that the later you introduce tech devices to your children, the better they can understand how to manage it.
If you drop that tablet into the crib, that kid will be primed for impulsivity. They're going to be shaped in a very toxic way, very early on, and all the research shows this. What you think is a short-term fix will ultimately create a longer-term problem.
- Set tech limits for family. By turning off your device at the dinner table and/or a couple of hours before bed, you can set a good example for your kids and gain quality time to connect with your family without the screens. Be consistent, so they don't push boundaries. For example, say no cell phones, tablets, or computers after 9 PM.
- Delay. Try to hold off giving your child tech devices until their personality is formed. The later, the better.
- Evaluate your own use. Lead by example and set boundaries for yourself as well. It is helpful to take a closer look at your relationship with social media and how it may be impacting your parenting style.
- Talk to your kids. Talk to your children about what they saw or read on social media that day. Set expectations on what is real and what is not.
- Engage in physical activity. Balance technology with physical activity. Don't use the iPad as a replacement for reading, learning, playing sports, and physical activity.
- Take a look at what apps your child is using. Some things might be more appropriate for their age range, and some things should be deleted. It's important for parents to learn about the different technology children are using to help keep them safe online.
- Unplug. Teach your child the value of “unplugging” from devices for technology-free time. Social media can be exciting, but it should be considered entertainment. Remind your child that no message is so important that it can’t wait until the morning.
For more information on what Dr. Nicholas Kardaras is up to, head to his website here!
Dr. Kardaras’ book Digital Madness is available September 13th on Amazon and we will be giving away a copy to a lucky audience member!
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