Late to the game:What can China and South Korea teach America?

 

This is the third in a series of guest posts by Kathleen Bartholemew, author of The Dauntless Nurse.  Don’t miss her first two blog posts, “It all comes back to staffing” and “How much weed is to much for Nurses“.  Check out all of Kathleen’s posts and leave comments below!

In 2008 both South Korea and China declared that gaming addiction was their number one public health problem. Today, these countries have sixteen treatment centers, a school internet screening tool, two week detox program and over 5000 counselors trained in internet addiction. In contrast, the CDC does not list internet addiction as even one of its top ten public health concerns – despite the fact that the screen time for America’s youth is over 7 hours a day, and that our children today only spend 4 to 7 minutes a day outdoors.

As a country we have failed to adequately acknowledge this crises as well as the impact it will ultimately have on our society. Most people do not even know that gaming in excess causes physical changes to the brain’s very structure at a time when it is still evolving. According to Dr. Hillarie Cash, founding member of ReStart Life, the signs and symptoms of addiction are:

  • Attention, learning and self-control problems
  • Impaired social skills
  • Emotional problems, anxiety, low self-esteem and depression
  • Aggression and indifference to human pain
  • Physical problems – eye strain, weakness, carpal tunnel
  • Strong correlation with sex and porn

Concerned, I paid a visit to the first digital addiction treatment center in the nation. Dr. Hillarie Cash  gave me a tour of the group treatment center at ReStART, but most enlightening were the personal conversations with the residents themselves who could barely make eye contact with me. Emphatically, these young men relayed what parents should NOT do:

  • Don’t tell kids its bad – tell them and show them the impact gaming has on their lives
  • Don’t get help until children admit there is a problem (it’s usually an event)
  • Don’t act like being on the internet is a reward
  • Don’t say “as long as you do what you are supposed to do (like good grades) then I don’t care

What should parents do? Unanimously these men wished that their parents had put parental controls on with explanations about the power of digital addiction – and they also wanted their parents to sit down and eat dinner with them. Real human connection appears to be a good antidote.

Pass this information along. Educate yourself on the powerful pull of digital media. Bring up the subject in PTA meetings, churches and social gatherings to help raise awareness in our society of the insidious damage of digital media addiction and inform your loved ones- in person! Or maybe download the APP “Moment” to monitor your own screen time (a reality check for my husband and I). As adults, set a good example. Over 60% of adults sleep with their cell phones at night, and half of adults read their emails during the night.

There has been a two year waiting list for ReStart Life for quite a while now – which clearly demonstrates the need. We may be late to the game, but there is still time for us to rally together to preserve the personal connections that make us human, and to protect our children from danger that they cannot see.

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Author Anthony

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