It’s confirmed: Our Kids are Being Turned into Heroin Junkies

One of the advantages of tabletop gaming is that you are a) required to interact with other humans in person when playing a multi-player game and b) looking at something that is not a screen, does not change upon command, and does not have a universe’s worth of information on it. As someone who has played at least 10,000 hours of video gaming, I know just how fun-and addicting-games can be. Even now, as I try to work to a schedule and get a lot done with my internet access (blog posts, social media, writing books, answering e-mail, working on some game concepts) it’s FREAKING HARD not to want to get the answer to a question or to want to know what’s going on in the outside world.

The fact is, nearly all of us are now carry symptoms of ADHD (which includes those of us to either have ADD or ADHD or suffer from recognized neurological disorders that go along with ADHD and OCD), especially around electronic devises. We are now obsessed with what the internet has given us. This weekend, I spoke to some incredible people at TempleCon and I’m going to share their thoughts with you, because it made me stop to think. My one regret was not being able to record these talks, because we should all be thinking about the issues discussed. Specifically, we talked about technology and its benefits/ negatives.

Anyways, as I’ve said before, there is going to be a serious problem in this country if people are turning away from reading and social activities and instead become slaves to their smartphones, eagerly awaiting the next social media like or approval from strangers. Yes, kids prefer print to e-books, and yes, the tabletop industry has grown 7 consecutive years and was worth about $850 as of 2015. But the total video game market is $100 BILLION and that’s mostly electronic games.

So here to confirm what Captain Friedman has been saying, is the mainstream media. Normally I’d clip the article, but this is so good that I’m reposting the entire thing, including the original link:

http://nypost.com/2016/08/27/its-digital-heroin-how-screens-turn-kids-into-psychotic-junkies/

 

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

Susan* bought her 6-year-old son John an iPad when he was in first grade. “I thought ‘why not let him get a jump on things?’ ” she told me during a therapy session. John’s school had begun using the devices with younger and younger grades—and his technology teacher had raved about their educational benefits—so Susan wanted to do what was best for her sandy-haired boy who loved reading and playing baseball.

She started letting John play different educational games on his iPad. Eventually, he discovered Minecraft, which the technology teacher assured her was “just like electronic Lego.” Remembering how much fun she had as a child building and playing with the interlocking plastic blocks, Susan let her son Minecraft his afternoons away.

Still, Susan couldn’t deny she was seeing changes in John. He started getting more and more focused on his game and losing interest in baseball and reading while refusing to do his chores. Some mornings he would wake up and tell her that he could see the cube shapes in his dreams.At first, Susan was quite pleased. John seemed engaged in creative play as he explored the cube-world of the game. She did notice that the game wasn’t quite like the Legos that she remembered—after all, she didn’t have to kill animals and find rare minerals to survive and get to the next level with her beloved old game. But John did seem to really like playing and the school even had a Minecraft club, so how bad could it be?

Although that concerned her, she thought her son might just be exhibiting an active imagination. As his behavior continued to deteriorate, she tried to take the game away but John threw temper tantrums. His outbursts were so severe that she gave in, still rationalizing to herself over and over again that “it’s educational.”

Then, one night, she realized that something was seriously wrong.

“I walked into his room to check on him. He was supposed to be sleeping—and I was just so frightened…”

We now know that those iPads, smart phones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug.

She found him sitting up in his bed staring wide-eyed, his bloodshot eyes looking into the distance as his glowing iPad lay next to him. He seemed to be in a trance. Beside herself with panic, Susan had to shake the boy repeatedly to snap him out of it. Distraught, she could not understand how her once-healthy and happy little boy had become so addicted to the game that he wound up in a catatonic stupor.

There’s a reason that the most tech-cautious parents are tech designers and engineers. Steve Jobs was a notoriously low-tech parent. Silicon Valley tech executives and engineers enroll their kids in no-tech Waldorf Schools. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page went to no-tech Montessori Schools, as did Amazon creator Jeff Bezos and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children that become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

But it’s even worse than we think.

We now know that those iPads, smart phones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex—which controls executive functioning, including impulse control—in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels—the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic—as much as sex.

This addictive effect is why Dr. Peter Whybrow, Director of Neuroscience at UCLA calls screens “electronic cocaine” and Chinese researchers call them “digital heroin.” In fact, Dr. Andrew Doan, the Head of Addiction Research for the Pentagon and the U.S. Navy—who has been researching video game addiction—calls video games and screen technologies “digital pharmakeia” (Greek for drug).

That’s right—your kid’s brain on Minecraft looks like a brain on drugs. No wonder we have a hard time peeling kids from their screens and find our little ones agitated when their screen time is interrupted. In addition, hundreds of clinical studies show that screens increase depression, anxiety, and aggression and can even lead to psychotic-like features where the video gamer loses touch with reality.

In my clinical work with over a 1,000 teens over the past 15 years, I have found the old axiom of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” to be especially true when it comes to tech addiction. Once a kid has crossed the line into true tech addiction, treatment can be very difficult. Indeed, I have found it easier to treat heroin and crystal meth addicts than lost-in-the-matrix video gamers or Facebook-dependent social media addicts.

That’s right—your kid’s brain on Minecraft looks like a brain on drugs.

According to a 2013 Policy Statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 8- to 10 year-olds spend 8 hours a day with various digital media while teenagers spend 11 hours in front of screens. One in three kids are using tablets or smartphones before they can talk. Meanwhile, the handbook of “Internet Addiction” by Dr. Kimberly Young states that 18 percent of college-age internet users in the U.S. suffer from tech addiction.

Once a person crosses over the line into full-blown addiction — drug, digital or otherwise — they need to detox before any other kind of therapy can have any chance of being effective. With tech, that means a full digital detox—no computers, no smartphones, no tablets. The extreme digital detox even eliminates television. The prescribed amount of time is four to six weeks; that’s the amount of time that is usually required for a hyper-aroused nervous system to reset itself. But that’s no easy task in our current tech-filled society where screens are ubiquitous. A person can live without drugs or alcohol; with tech addiction, digital temptations are everywhere.

So how do we keep our children from crossing this line? It’s not easy.

The key is to prevent your 4, 5 or 8-year-old from getting hooked on screens to begin with. That means Lego instead of Minecraft; books instead of iPads; nature and sports instead of TV. If you have to, demand that your child’s school not give them a tablet or Chromebook until they are at least 10 years old (others recommend 12).

Have honest discussions with your child about why you are limiting their screen access. Eat dinner with your children without any electronic devices at the table—just as Steve Jobs used to have tech-free dinners with his kids. Don’t fall victim to “Distracted Parent Syndrome” —as we know from Social Learning Theory, “monkey see, monkey do.”

When I speak to my 9-year-old twin boys, I have honest conversations with them about why we don’t want them having tablets or playing video games. I explain to them that some kids like playing with their devices so much, that they have a hard time stopping or controlling how much they play. I’ve helped them to understand that if they get caught up with screens and Minecraft like some of their friends have, that other parts of their lives may suffer: they may not want to play baseball as much; not read books as often; be less interested in science and nature projects; become more disconnected from their real-world friends. Amazingly, they don’t need much convincing as they’ve seen first-hand the changes that some of their little friends have undergone as a result of their excessive screen time.

Modal Trigger

Developmental psychologists understand that children’s healthy development involves social interaction, creative imaginative play and an engagement with the real, natural world. Unfortunately, the immersive and addictive world of screens dampens and stunts those developmental processes.

We also know that kids are more prone to addictive escape if they feel alone, alienated, purposeless and bored. Thus the solution is often to help kids to connect to meaningful real life experiences and flesh and blood relationships. The engaged child tethered to creative activities and connected to his or her family is less likely to escape into the digital fantasy world. Yet even if a child has the best and most loving support, he or she could fall into the Matrix once they engage with hypnotic screens and experience their addicting effect. After all, about one in 10 people are predisposed towards addictive tendencies.

In the end, my client Susan removed John’s tablet, but recovery was an uphill battle with many bumps and setbacks along the way.

Four years later, after much support and reinforcement, John is doing much better today. He has learned to use a desktop computer in a healthier way, and has gotten some sense of balance back in his life: he’s playing on a baseball team and has several close friends in his middle school. But his mother is still vigilant and remains a positive and proactive force with his tech usage because, as with any addiction, relapse can sneak up in moments of weakness. Making sure that he has healthy outlets, no computer in his bedroom and a nightly tech-free dinner at the dinner table are all part of the solution.

I’ve seen this everywhere: Parents, particularly both single-parent homes and where both parents work, provide the child with an electronic device to keep him/her busy while Mommy and Daddy work. The problem is, the device provides the unsuspecting child with all kinds of stimuli that trigger strong feelings of attachment to the device. Soon the child is obsessed with getting stimulated by the games, and the parents begin to wonder why their child loses interest in sports and playtime. The obvious thing is, if you cannot take time off to be with your child, is to routinely replace the electronics with books, puzzles, board games (or card games) or some other simply, non-electronic hobby. Yet this kind of common-sense is lacking in our society, among other things that are seriously wrong. We need to get away from the obsessive nature of the internet and return to our roots- recognizing that while our ancestors did live short and rather horrible lives, they did at least not have to worry about what someone in the next village over said about them on Facebook.

 

My Novel got Rejected Again

After revising my query and trying again, I finally got an agent to request a partial. After she read it, here’s what I was told:

” I read it and found the plot interesting, but wasn’t as taken with the dialogue or writing, so I’m going to pass on the opportunity to represent this.”

I offered another novel that’s totally separate but that was declined as well (without being read).

So what does this mean? Ironically, I thought the writing and dialogue were good and the plot not so much, so this agent saw things completely opposite. However, as of this writing I’m over 17.5k reads in less than 3 months, and my story is consistently in the top 400 (as high as #49) out of at least 100,000 fantasy stories on Wattpad, so clearly there is interest in Bradan’s story. Per popular demand, I will post book 2 as I have no ability as of yet to market the novels themselves. I will continue to try to seek a traditional publisher but if no one wants the novel, I will self-publish the series rather than sit on them forever.

While I appreciate this agent’s time in reading the first 50 pages of ERA OF BRADAN, it’s disappointing that yet again, I cannot get interest in a novel that, as I note above, has a pretty solid following on Wattpad, especially given that it’s my only book and I only began posting it this calendar year. While the number may fluctuate, I gain about 1000 new reads every 4-5 days, which means close to 7,000 new fans a month or another 55,000 by the end of this year (this is just at current trends- typically as books get more reads, they attract even more people so I could end up averaging 1,000+ a day). Now that’s not a lot of reads on Wattpad, but it does suggest there’s interest in this story. Keep in mind this is a MG novel and isn’t even the right age for Wattpad’s readership. By the time I post the second novel, I should be able to easily get over 100,000 views (and no money for it). This doesn’t even count my kid beta readers, the few who’ve read the whole thing on PDF and have liked it, if not loved it.

I get that agents have a lot of submissions and it’s a totally subjective field. But I think they are looking for different things than what readers are looking for. And remember, we aren’t even up to the publishers yet. Oh well. In the meantime, back to selling card games.

 

What do you think about the traditional book publishing process ? Have you experienced rejection within the industry?

Why Should I Get Married? Is Marriage Obsolete?

“Should I get married?” This is one of the questions raging around our single society now with no end in sight.

I am in the prime marriage age group of 25-34. This is the time when most of my friends start-gasp- getting engaged or actually married. This is the time when not only family, but friends, have begun asking things like:

“Sooo…what’s new?” (Translation: Any dates?)

“Sooo..are you bringing anyone to the wedding/hangout?” (Translation: Any dates?)

variant: “Soo…how many people are coming?” (Translation: Any dates?)

my answer: ranges from “I just haven’t found ‘The One’ yet to ‘just me’.” What else am I supposed to do? I have heard all the reasons both for and against getting married. I want to talk about the economic forecasts for our society if more and more people people stay single and/or childless.

Today’s article is brought to you by the American Enterprise Institute’s Nicholas Eberstadt. (bold emphasis mine and article slightly truncated):

“All around the world today, pre-existing family patterns are being upended by a revolutionary new force: the seemingly unstoppable quest for convenience by adults demanding ever-greater autonomy. We can think of this as another triumph of consumer sovereignty, which has at last brought rational choice and elective affinities into a bastion heretofore governed by traditions and duties—many of them onerous. Thanks to this revolution, it is perhaps easier than ever before to free oneself from the burdens that would otherwise be imposed by spouses, children, relatives or significant others with whom one shares a hearth.

Yet in infancy and childhood and then again much later, in feebleness or senescence, people need more from others. Whatever else we may be, we are all manifestly inconvenient at the start and end of life. Thus the recasting of the family puts it on a collision course with the inescapable inconvenience of the human condition itself—portending outcomes and risks we have scarcely begun to consider.

As of 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 40% of babies in the U.S. were born outside marriage, and for 2014 the Census Bureau estimated that 27% of all children (and 22% of “White” children) lived in a fatherless home. But the opt-out from the old family norm is even more advanced than these figures suggest. A 2011 study by two Census researchers reckoned that just 59% of all American children (and 65% of “Anglo” or non-Hispanic white children) lived with married and biological parents as of 2009. Unless there is a change in this “revealed preference” against married unions that include children, within the foreseeable future American children who reside with their married birthparents will be in the minority.

Now consider Europe, where the revolution in the family has gained still more ground. European demographers even have an elegant name for the phenomenon: They call it the Second Demographic Transition (the First being the shift from high birth rates and death rates to low ones that began in Europe in the early industrial era and by now encompasses almost every society). In the schema of the Second Demographic Transition, long, stable marriages are out, and divorce or separation are in, along with serial cohabitation and increasingly contingent liaisons. Not surprisingly, this new environment of perennially conditional, no-fault unions was also seen as ushering in an era of more or less permanent sub-replacement fertility.

Europe has also seen a surge in “child-free” adults—voluntary childlessness. The proportion of childless 40-something women is one in five for Sweden and Switzerland, and one in four for Italy. In Berlin and in the German city-state of Hamburg, it’s nearly one in three, and rising swiftly. Europe’s most rapidly growing family type is the one-person household: the home not only child-free, but partner- and relative-free as well. In Western Europe, nearly one home in three (32%) is already a one-person unit, while in autonomy-prizing Denmark the number exceeds 45%. The rise of the one-person home coincides with population aging. But it is not primarily driven by the graying of European society, at least thus far: Over twice as many Danes under 65 are living alone as those over 65.

Lest one suspect that there is something about this phenomenon that is culturally specific to Western countries, we have Japan, whose fabled “Asian family values” are now largely a thing of the past. Contemporary Japanese women have lifestyle options that were unthinkable for their grandmothers, including divorce, separation, cohabitation and remaining single. Japanese women are availing themselves of these new choices.

Much the same has been taking place around East and Southeast Asia for at least a generation. From South Korea to Singapore, China is rimmed by countries where marriage is being postponed or, increasingly, forgone; where networks of extended kin are withering due to extreme sub-replacement fertility; and where childlessness is on the rise.

Thus far the Chinese mainland has been conspicuously resistant to these trends. Yet according to the 2011 Hong Kong census, 22% of the Chinese territory’s women in their late 30s were unmarried—almost the same as for Japan. Further, over 30% of Hong Kong’s women in their early 40s are childless, more than doubling in 15 years. Similar, albeit somewhat less accentuated, tendencies are reported in Taiwan.

America, Europe and the highly modernized reaches of East and Southeast Asia are affluent and “globalized.” But the undoing of previously accepted family arrangements is also under way in seemingly traditional low-income societies—Muslim-majority societies in particular. Although it has attracted strangely little attention, a flight from marriage within the Arab world is in process, led by masses of women who wish to bend or break the rules of family life to which their mothers had submitted.

According to the U.N. Population Division’s “World Marriage Data 2012,” the proportion of never-married women in their late 30s was higher in Morocco in 2004 than in the U.S. in 2009 (18% vs. 16%). By the same token, the percentage of single women in their early 40s was higher in Lebanon in 2007 than in Italy in 2010 (22% vs. 18%). And nearly 32% of Libyan women in their late 30s were unmarried in 2006—20 times the percentage barely two decades earlier, even higher than for Denmark in 2011 (29%).

Our world-wide flight from family constitutes a significant international victory for self-actualization over self-sacrifice, and might even be said to mark a new chapter in humanity’s conscious pursuit of happiness. But these voluntary changes also have unintended consequences. The deleterious impact on the hardly inconsequential numbers of children disadvantaged by the flight from the family is already plain enough. So too the damaging role of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing in exacerbating income disparities and wealth gaps—for society as a whole, but especially for children. Yes, children are resilient and all that. But the flight from family most assuredly comes at the expense of the vulnerable young.

That same flight also has unforgiving implications for the vulnerable old. With America’s baby boomers reaching retirement, and a world-wide “gray wave” around the corner, we are about to learn the meaning of those implications firsthand.

In the decades ahead, ever more care and support for seniors will be required, especially for the growing contingent among the elderly who will be victims of dementia, or are childless and socially isolated. Remember, a longevity revolution is also under way. Yet by some cruel cosmic irony, family structures and family members will be less capable, and perhaps also less willing, to provide that care and support than ever before.

That contradiction promises to frame an overarching social problem, not just in so-called developed countries but throughout the world. It is far from clear that humanity is prepared to cope with the consequences of its impending family deficit, with increasing independence for those traditionally most dependent on others—i.e., the young and old. Public policies are the obvious candidate for the task. But as the past century of social policy has demonstrated, government is a highly imperfect substitute for family—and a very expensive one.”

Marriage doesn’t seem to be treated as a big deal anymore, except Same-Sex Marriage (which I believe, once fully legalized in all 50 states, will be treated like straight marriage in every way), and while I have many more friends who have or would tie the not than those who haven’t or would not, there are many people I suspect won’t go for it. And of course even among those who are married, many are choosing to not have kids or limit themselves- why isn’t the point of this blog, except that from an economic standpoint a gray wave means more need for services for seniors but fewer workers able to provide. Japan is the future of what will happen to American in about 25 years. Already my home state of Delaware is slowly aging. 25% of residents in Sussex County are seniors and that number grows as retirees move in and young people move away.

Then there’s the cultural mentality: Girlfriends and wives are referred to as a “ball and chain” who keep guys like me from having sex and achieving our dreams because they nag all day. For women, men are either perceived by the media as pathetic, useless losers who need their wives/girlfriends to save them, or absent/unimportant altogether. Then there’s an entire legion of women complaining that a lot of guys would honestly just rather play video games and eat Hot Pockets than get a job and have a serious relationship, leaving guys like me surrounded by a whole culture of Pick Up Artists and those seeking Tinder-style hookups. And yes some women are just as bad as any of these guys.

Now most of us guys are not Christian Grey-billionaires with hardcore sexual fantasies (another definition of ‘ball and chain’ if I ever needed one) but, fantasy fiction aside, I want to hear what you think: Does marriage still matter? Am I weird if I still think it does? Or is it much better to stay single than have one’s life ruined by divorce?

note: this article also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, published February 23, 2015:

The Obvious Answer to Why Boys Read Less than Girls

I love switching out planned topics for new ones at the last minute. Answering this question “Why don’t boys read as much as girls?” Is one of those unexpected but elephant-in-the-room questions when it comes to kids books.

Today’s pondering article, from The Book Seller: (spelling differences left in their original form).

“The children’s book market is in fantastic health. As The Bookseller have reported, in 2014, children’s book sales were up by almost 10 percent, year-on-year — particularly impressive in the context of an overall decline in print book sales — and this shortlist shows why: it’s a brilliant selection of books, demonstrating how much imagination, creativity and talent exists in children’s publishing at the moment.

Selling books to boys is difficult. As has been discussed elsewhere, only 3 of the 18 authors on the Waterstones shortlists are men (one of them, G.R. Gemin, is a Nosy Crow author, shortlisted for his fantastic debut novel Cowgirl).

Boys don’t read as much as girls. Tempting as it might be to dismiss that statement as a gross generalisation, it is objectively, statistically the case. Recent research by the National Literacy Trust (NLT) found that more parents of girls said that their child read daily than parents of boys (75 percent vs 68 percent). Parents of girls were also more likely than parents of boys to report that their child enjoyed stories “a lot” (83 percent vs 74 percent). And girls are almost twice as likely as boys (18 percent vs 10 percent) to read stories more without than with an adult.

This is what motivated us (please excuse the shameless self-promotion) to create our Jack and the Beanstalk app. More than any of our other apps, Jack and the Beanstalk is aimed at reluctant boy readers. It has an emphasis on reading for pleasure, built within a “game-like” architecture — a non-linear narrative, a “scoring” mechanism, multiple endings — that we think works well at encouraging boys who love on-screen gaming to participate in a reading experience.

I don’t mean, by all this, that because we’ve found ways of using screens to engage some boys with reading that we can give up on print (and it would be foolish to think so: while the children’s print market enjoyed its meteoric growth last year, digital revenues remained stubbornly small).”

Um…I can answer this question. And no, non-linear books on e-readers won’t solve the problem.

When I was a kid I read a lot of books in: Goosebumps, Fear Street (R.L. Stine’s Teen series), Hardy Boys,  Encyclopedia Brown, Harry Potter, and some sci-fi books like Ender’s Game and my favorite, Boat of a Million Years (not a kid’s book but still a good read). Later in my teens I read more manga like Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, Worst,and Elfen Lied. What did they all have in common? Other than HP, which was more mystery-oriented plots, all the other books had more action and drama and less “feeling” about characters. Action and mystery, not narrative prose, drove the plots.

Heck even my video games had more substance than the teen books offered to me as “bestsellers”. I was simply not interested in Twilight and general romance novels, or the typical BS which may win critical acclaim but sell few copies (like how many Oscar winners are well-received by critics but rarely do well at the box office) which is a lot of what is published as Young Adult (teen readers). So the Japanese mange gave me: ninja fights, pirate fights, ghost soul fights, high school street brawls, etc.

All of these series, the English and Japanese, still had emotion and character development as part of their backgrounds, but the action drove the plot, not “literary prose” (writing about how one feels about something) which tends to be more published. Granted, there are also thriller novels but most of the more interesting ones are adult-oriented, and thrillers often lack deep character development needed to sell a great series. Go look up the rejection histories of Dr. Seuss, HP, and Chicken Soup if you want to see how great series are not even given the time of day while what the “literary community” wants rarely sells well.

So then, why don’t boys read:

Answer: Too many kid’s books are “female-friendly”. Focused too heavily on romance and “how someone feels” about something, or poltiical correctness (minority books with minority settings- I am Latino but I don’t want to read a book about some Hispanic kid living in racist White America trying to get by- how about a Hispanic kid who swings powerful swords and is cocky but brings the heat when it matters? Saves the day because he’s badass and not because he’s Hispanic/Latino? (hmmm). Most literary agents and acquisition editors are women with English lit or Creative Writing degrees, and action adventure books like James Bond are generally frowned upon in the academic world, especially when compared to books like The Great Gatsby, War and Peace, etc.. If you don’t believe me, compare the number of books about ninja/pirate fights published annually to “critically acclaimed” books  minorities living in 1950s racist America or books heavy on female characteristics.

I’m not against these books; they have their own appeal and their own place in literature. But if you want boys to read, how about stuff I want to read and not what adults think kids should be reading.