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Hamptons Life

Aug 22, 2017 10:02 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Local Screen Addiction Expert To Participate In Q And A In Southampton On Sunday

Aug 22, 2017 10:32 AM

Several years ago, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras witnessed something on a trip to Greece that both horrified and inspired him.

Vacationing on the Mediterranean Sea with his family, Dr. Kardaras was shocked to discover several children and teenagers holed up in the basement of an internet cafe, their faces illuminated in the dark by the glowing screens in front of them. Instead of playing outdoors, frolicking on the beach in one of the most beautiful places on earth, they were slaves to their devices.

For Dr. Kardaras, it was one of many signs that pointed to a growing epidemic of screen addiction among young children and teens. The Sag Harbor resident and addiction expert is a former clinical professor at Stony Brook Medicine and has taught neuropsychology at the doctoral level. He’s also the executive director of the rehabilitation center The Dunes in East Hampton, and is the founder and executive director of Hamptons Discovery, a progressive adolescent treatment program.

Dr. Kardaras will be in Southampton Village on Sunday, August 27, as Rogers Memorial Library and the Southampton Arts Center host a screening of the documentary film “Screenagers,” which explores the impact of digital media and screen time on children and teens. Dr. Kardaras was not part of that filmmaking effort, but will participate in a Q&A session after the film, which will be shown at 6 p.m. at the Southampton Arts Center at 25 Jobs Lane.

Dr. Kardaras wrote a book on the topic titled “Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids—And How To Break The Trance,” published by St. Martin’s Press in 2015. Since then, he’s been busy giving lectures and has been invited to speak at various forums across the country and even internationally. Dr. Kardaras said he was inspired to write the book after witnessing scenes like the one in Greece, and also after finding out how technology companies were conspiring to profit from the addictive nature of electronic devices by putting them in the hands of more and more children through schools, promising educational benefits which, he claims, are not backed up by any definitive research. He is particularly dismayed by the push to put devices into the hands of the youngest elementary school children. He said he has treated screen-addicted children in his practice, and has seen striking similarities between their behaviors and those of drug addicts he has treated.

“I became angry because, as a parent, I felt that our children were being consciously manipulated and addicted to these products,” he said. “As an addiction psychologist, I saw all the telltale signs of clinical addiction. Then I saw it wasn’t an accident and that’s what got me angry.

“I wanted to put all of it in my book and let parents know that this is what’s going on and then you can decide what your kids should be exposed to,” he added.

In his book, Dr. Kardaras references various studies and research that highlights the negative impact of too much screen time on young children, including increased risk for an ADHD diagnosis, and a blunting of social skills and creativity. He said the response to the book has been positive, with emails from parents thanking him for bringing the issue to the forefront.

“I think a lot of parents intuitively had a sense that this might not be great for their 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-year-old,” he said. “But because the schools have been pushing it, they’d think, ‘I guess it’s okay.’”

Dr. Kardaras is quick to point out that he is not advocating for an elimination of technological devices, describing himself as a “pretty high-tech person,” but instead is focused on an age-based approach to access to tech devices.

“I love driving my car, but I wouldn’t give my 7-year-old the keys,” he said.

Dr. Kardaras argues that young children don’t have the neurophysiological apparatus to defend against screen addiction, something he said that even many adults lack.

“If [screen addiction] is happening to adults, what chance does a 7-year-old have?”

Admission to "Screenagers" on Sunday, August 27, at 6 p.m. at Southampton Arts Center is $10, or free for students. For more information, visit southamptonartscenter.org.

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