Recent Read: Digital Culture and the Importance of CampPosted by on April 21, 2017

Recent Read – Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids — and How to Break the Trance by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D

During the off season, I like to read child development and parenting books. My choices typically connect with the values of Fernwood Cove or focus on the parenting challenges in today’s society.  My most recent read, “Glow Kids” highlights the devastating effects our digital culture is having on our youth. Author, Nicholas Kardaras references research conducted in the United States and globally.  If you are a parent of a child, teen, or young adult this book is a must read.

Before reading “Glow Kids” Jim and I already limited access and exposure to screen time for our children, Sylvie and Perrin. They attend a small elementary school that does not use tablets, iPads or computers. At home, Perrin does not have a tablet. Sylvie listens to music or audio-books on hers. A parental app called “Screen Time” allows us to limit her available apps. Glow Kids has only reinforced our decisions and given me a better understanding of why it is so important. As parents we make many decisions for our children. Navigating what’s best for our children in relation to screen time is new and daunting.  This book will help you to make informative parenting decisions. And help you educate your children on the damaging effects iPads, tablets, cell phones, computers and TVs can have on young and developing nervous systems.

Dependence on Screens

When our daughter Sylvie was 3 years old I would let her watch a few episodes of Dora the Explorer.  At the time an hour a day seemed like minimal time in front of a screen. However, Jim and I would witness a change in her mood and affect after this small amount of TV time. She was noticeably more irritable and would have emotional outbursts. After reading Glow Kids I have a better understanding of why. Her developing nervous system was being hyper-aroused. And as a 3 year old, she had limited ability to handle this.  Was it really worth the hour of down time for mommy? While it felt like it for the hour the TV was on, it certainly was not when I was dealing with Sylvie afterwards.

As Dr. Susan Linn, author of Consuming Kids and a lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, explains, “It’s true that if you provide children with a screen device when you go on car trips, take public transportation, or go for their annual physical, the periods you spend waiting may be more restful or easier to manage. But such convenience comes at a cost. It fosters dependence on screens to get through a day, and prevents children from getting in the habit of noticing, and engaging with, the world around them.” What is the cost to our children, the next generation? Kardaras’ list includes attention problems, personal connection problems, addiction. And other major psychological problems such as bi-polar, ADHA, Depression, and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.

Electronic Screen Syndrome

Child Psychologist, Dr. Victoria Dunkley conceptualized Electronic screen syndrome. As explained in Glow Kids “she came to believe that the unnaturally stimulating nature of an electric screen, regardless of its content, wreaks havoc on the still-developing nervous system and mental health of a child on a variety of levels-cognitive, behavioral and emotional.” She stated that Electronic Screen Syndrome isn’t just limited to kids with pronounced psychiatric or behavioral disorders. Dr. Dunkley observed that all kids were impacted on some level.  Even those with “moderate” screen exposure were showing signs of “subtle damage”.  This includes chronic irritability, inability to focus, a general malaise, apathy or, sometimes, a state of being “wired and tired.” (That is, agitated but exhausted)

The current research related to the impact of screen time reinforces the importance of camp, and the break it provides from technology.  In addition it brings significance to Fernwood Cove’s policy of no electronics.  Dr. Dunkley is adamant in advocating for a six to four week full fast or detox- the removal of all electronic screens.  Camp provides the technology detox, allowing campers’ nervous systems to reset.  Hence this detox helps to counteract the negative impact of screen time from the rest of the year.

A Healthy Relationship with Technology

Jim has often communicated to our camp parents, “Who is doing your child the disservice? Us for taking away the electronics, or you for providing them?”.  Karadaras admits that “long-term tech abstinence is difficult, if not close to impossible in our screen culture”.  However after camp, when your daughter has been technology-free you have a perfect opportunity to talk with her.  As parents we have a choice on how we raise our children. I believe that my recent read will inform you so you can educate your daughter.  And encourage her to develop a healthy relationship with technology.

-Beigette Gill

Recent article regarding glow kids.