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Science Matters

A speakers program exploring challenging science issues at the forefront of public concern

Digital Addiction: A future epidemic or scare mongering?

The last decade has seen a proliferation of mobile digital devices where people spend considerable time consuming digital media, taking photos, texting, and being active on social media. Many researchers claim that this heavy exposure to screens is detrimental to the physical, mental, social and emotional health of users. Spending more time on these digital devices instead of engaging in face-to-face and real-world experiences is said to be particularly damaging to young children’s healthy growth and development. Is there sufficient scientific evidence for these fears or is this mere scare mongering? Others argue that the dire warnings are only the typical anxieties generated by any new technology. They point to similar concerns when books and television were introduced, and focus on the considerable benefits of the digital era such as increased access to information and being interconnected with the wider world. Are we witnessing a fundamental technological problem or an opportunity?

On January 20, 2018, a panel of experts discussed the science and societal dimensions of this timely issue.

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Conan Nolan – moderator

NBC4 Chief Political Reporter and Anchor of News Conference.

Timothy Fong, M.D.

Professor of Psychiatry, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, UCLA
Co-director, UCLA Gambling Studies Program
Director, UCLA Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship

Kaveri Subrahmanyam, Ph.D.

Chair, Department of Child & Family Studies at California State University, Los Angeles
Associate Director, Children’s Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles (UCLA/CSULA)

Julie Albright, Ph.D.

Lecturer, Department of Applied Psychology at the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Marientina Gotsis, MFA

Associate Professor of Research, Interactive Media & Games Division, USC School of Cinematic Arts
Director, USC Creative Media & Behavioral Health Center

Empowerment Congress
Country of Los Angeles

Resources for further reading:

Articles on the web

Are your digital devices rewiring your brain?

How digital devices affect infants and toddlers

Children and adolescents and digital media

Children and electronic media: how much is too much?

Media and young children’s learning

Your brain on computers

Here's what science says about how digital technology REALLY affects our brains

Internet addiction changes brain similar to cocaine: study

How electronic devices affect sleep

It’s digital heroin: how screens turn kids into psychotic junkies

Why calling screen time “digital heroin” is digital garbage

Parenting for a digital future

3 Ways electronic media harm kids’ health and 3 ways they can help

Young children in the digital age


Alter Adam

Irresistible: Why you are addicted to technology and how to set yourself free

Nicolas Carr

The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains

Susan Greenfield

Mind Change: How digital technologies are leaving their mark on our brains