Failure To Connect

Dr. Diana L Walcutt Health Guide
  • You know, about 10 years ago I read a great book by Dr. Jane M. Healy called, "Failure To Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds, For Better And Worse" and part of it was about how our kids are becoming unable to socialize. This book was looking specifically at the effects of computers on our children's minds and behaviours, but I wish to take the premise a step further, into the 21st Century.


    Think about your kids, or grandkids. They are isolated with their computers, iPods, text messaging (instead of calling) on their cell phones, and video games. They aren't learning to understand social cues, are ignoring manners and are becoming more and more isolated as time goes on. That's not the only problem here, however. They are also becoming anxious, depressed and angry.

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    Sadly, the problem is, we not only accept this, we are unwittingly encouraging it. Think about it; our kids want video games for the Holidays, and yuppers, we get them, since it will make them happy. Maybe not "Grand Theft Auto," but games that excite the mind and keep them occupied.


    What ever happened to the days when kids were out playing with friends, using their imaginations and learning something other then how to capture the next object in a game? They were learning how to function in an adult world by being able to understand what will soon be expected of them in the workplace.


    I work with many, many, kids who are diagnosed with attention deficit problems, impulsivity, depression, anxiety and anger, and offer their parents alternative treatment to medications by using Neurofeedback. Here's the catch. Since I know that I am trying to correct certain functions in their brains with the training, I don't allow the kids to either 1) play video games the rest of the day of training and 2) ask that the parents limit the use of the games to only an hour or so each day. These kids aren't happy in the beginning, since they aren't allowed to play the games 24/7, but surprisingly, if the parents stick to the regimen, the kids become happier and more focused. Their grades improve, and they are clearly more relaxed.


    Why? Well, when a child is playing a video game, he is "hyper-focused" or intent on the game. That is all well and good, if the child can use that focus in the classroom or, sports, or perhaps a chess game. But the problem is, they are no longer interested in these things, because, unfortunately, they have become addicted to adrenalin.

    Is this a problem? Maybe. Adrenalin is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands, little blobs that sit on top of the kidneys. These little blobs also produce cortisone. Both hormones protect us in times of danger and help with energy, pain, and our immune system. I'm not a physician, but I understand that too much adrenalin is not a good thing. It tends to lead to aggression, impulsivity and ultimately can lead to horrifying situations like Columbine and Virginia Tech.


    I had an adult patient tell me once that he played Grand Theft Auto all weekend and that following Monday, he said that he had to be very careful on the road, since he felt like running pedestrians over to see if it was as much fun as the game. This was a great, and kind, and decent man, a man who had done THREE tours of duty in Iraq. I will be honest, very little freaks me out in the therapy room. This did.


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    I am NOT saying that our kids shouldn't play video games, text message, etc. They are NOT evil. What I am saying is this; when you were their age, did you honestly know what was best for you? I didn't. So I ask, can you perhaps consider limiting the exposure to these isolating things?


    Please consider your child's social well being as well as their general adjustment to the demands of the world. He or she needs more of an education than video games can offer. (You might also want to read "ADD: The 20-Hour Solution" by Steinberg and Othmer).

Published On: December 15, 2008