Media Overuse and Addiction

At least a few times a week, more than 77% of parents and 41% percent of teens feel the other gets distracted by a device and doesn’t pay attention when they’re trying to talk.

72% of teens and 48% of parents feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social-networking messages, and other notifications.

56% of parents and 51% of teen admit to checking devices while driving.
— Common Sense Media

It would be hard to argue that something serious is not going on here. Why is it that so many people feel "addicted" to their devices? Some researchers argue it's not us, but our devices. While others put the ownership on the individual. Device use is much more complicated than we once thought. And it's important to understand that when it comes to child development, children's brains just aren't capable of handling the "persuasive design" of technology. They are yet to develop impulse control, executive functioning and critical thinking. What is Persuasive Technology? Who is BJ Fogg?

We recommend that every parent educate themselves on the power of technology so we can better teach our children how to safely use it in a way that keeps them in control and protects their health. 

To learn about how technology is designed to be addictive, check out this article - “The scientists who make apps addictive.”

Children and Screens

Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development is an international non-profit organization founded in 2013 to understand and address compelling questions regarding media's impact on child development through interdisciplinary dialogue, public information, and rigorous, objective research bridging the medical, neuroscientific, social science, public health, educational, and academic communities.

As part of Children and Screens’ ongoing support and curation of cutting-edge, objective, scientifically-rigorous interdisciplinary research, we invited nearly 140 preeminent experts from 10 different disciplines in 22 workgroups to compile the latest research on the effects of media on growth and development, cognition and mental health in toddlers, children and adolescents.

You can read their take on Internet Gaming Disorder here.


Common Sense Media is a leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. They empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.

CSM has a large number of researchers studying media. Although their findings can sometimes be contradictory and their advice varies depending on who’s writing the article, we still recommend you visit their site for answers to tech-related questions. Below is a collection of articles about tech addiction.

What Parents Need to Know About Technology Addiction

The Sneaky Science Behind Tech Obsession

Control Your Phone. Don't Let It Control You.

Technology Addiction: Concern, Controversy and Finding Balance

Dealing with Devices: The Parent-Teen Dynamic (Statistics) 



The Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH) at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) is an academic research center whose mission is to educate and empower children and those who care for them to create and consume media in ways that optimize children’s health and development. Founded in 2003 by pediatrician, father, and former Hollywood filmmaker Michael Rich, CMCH focuses on media as a powerful environmental health influence, like the air we breathe and the water we drink. They seek to understand the positive and negative health impacts media can have and find ways of making media the most positive possible influence in children’s lives.

This website is loaded with useful information, including "Ask the Mediatrician," which we find particularly useful, as well as Tip Sheets. These articles address "Problematic Interactive Media Use:"

How can Problematic Interactive Media Use (PIMU) affect children?

Here are a few highly recommended interviews with Dr. Michael Rich, the Mediatrician.

Screen time, Media and Child Development

How Can Kids Master Technology Before It Masters Them



Dr. Richard Freed is a clinical psychologist who has becoming increasingly more involved in treating and researching technology effects of children. His website contains a wealth of information, including a blog, articles and exerts from his books, "Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age." Below are some useful links to his site:

Tech companies use “persuasive design” to get us hooked. Psychologists say it’s unethical.

How the Tech Industry Uses Psychology to Hook Children

The Tech Industry’s War on Kids

 The Tragic Story of Child Video Game Addiction

What One Boy’s Story Tells Us About Video Game Addiction

The Science and Tragedy Behind Screen Addiction

Why Smartphone Dependence is Ravaging a Generation


Parenting in the Digital Age with Dr. Richard Freed

Video Game Addiction’s Impact on School Success Podcast



Dr. Victoria Dunckley is a clinical psychologist and a leading researcher in the area of media and its effects on children, particularly those with disorders, such as Autism and ADHD. Because tech addiction physiologically mimics substance abuse vs. behavioral addiction, she recommends an electronic fast to help reset children's brains. To learn more, pick up her book Reset Your Child's Brain or take a look at the following interviews:

Listen: Reset Your Child's Brain and How to Take Your Child Off of Technology

Read: 6 Ways electronic screen time makes kids angry, depressed and unmotivated and Quiz: Is your child experiencing side effects from using electronic devices?



Center for Humane Technology is "a world-class team of deeply concerned former tech insiders and CEOs who intimately understand the culture, business incentives, design techniques, and organizational structures driving how technology hijacks our minds.”

Their easy to read and easy to navigate website explains how society is being "hijacked" by technology.

This page is particularly useful in how to "Take Control of Your Phone."

Tristan is a former silicon valley insider and the cofounder and executive director of Humane Technology.  Listen to Tristan Harris' Ted talk here:

How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day.

And his most popular interview: What is Technology doing to us?





Internet and Gaming Addiction: A Systematic Literature Review of Neuroimaging Studies

Brain imaging studies reveal that game addictions commandeer the cingulate gyrus (a key brain area involved in motivation) and the prefrontal cortex (the brain’s judgment center). The result is that kids can become fixated on digital devices, cease to care about what once mattered to them most, and yet have no insight regarding their problems. We highly recommend reading the complete summary here.

"From a biochemical point of view, the results of PET studies provide evidence for striatal dopamine release during gaming [50]. Frequent gaming and Internet use were shown to decrease dopamine levels (due to decreased dopamine transporter availability) and lead to neurobiological dysfunctions in the dopaminergic system in Internet addicts [49,51].

“Overall, the studies indicate that Internet and gaming addiction is associated with both changes in function as well as structure of the brain. Therefore, not only does this behavioral addiction increase the activity in brain regions commonly associated with substance-related addictions, but it appears to lead to neuroadaptation in such a way that the brain itself actually changes as a consequence of excessive engagement with the Internet and gaming.”



Families Managing Media has collected research conducted by some of the top researcher in the field and presented it in a way that is easy for parents to understand. They include a checklist to help parents understand the degree of video game misuse and a list of solutions. 

Families Managing Media - Video Games



Dr. BJ Fogg is a behavioral scientist at Stanford University who runs a research lab. He also teaches his models and methods to graduate students. Taken directly from his site: 

"On the industry side, I train innovators to use my work so they can create solutions that influence behavior. The focus areas include health, financial wellbeing, learning, productivity, and more. I wrote a seminal book, Persuasive Technology, about how computers can be designed to influence attitudes and behaviors."

To learn more about how Fogg "influences behavior," take a look at the Fogg Method

These articles explore how the Fogg Method can be used by individuals to effectuate positive change in their own lives and how the methods are being used to influence behavior on technology platforms. We challenge parents to think about how technology companies are using psychology and neuroscience to keep people using technology so they can sell our attention and our data to advertisers. We already know that children have not developed critical thinking skills necessary to understand the persuasive nature of advertising, let alone the implications of persuasive technology. 

A Stanford University psychologists elegant three-step method for creating new habits.

The Formula for Phone Addiction Might Double as a Cure

Tapping the Power of Persuasion


More INformation

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til It’s Gone - “Companies that provide media content for the phone are using psychology and strategic communication research to get us to spend as much time on them as possible. The incentives of the attention economy place a high premium on getting, and keeping, a user’s attention. Unfortunately, some psychological techniques are used to manipulate our attention to maximize a company’s profit rather than support our goals, including behavioral primes, distracting alerts, gamification techniques, auto-play of videos, and clickbait posts. These techniques, when used to manipulate us rather than support us, need to be fought against through regulation and education.”

How to set-up parental controls on iPod, iPad and iPhone

Are we raising digital monsters?

iPhones and Children Are a Toxic Pair, Say Two Big Apple Investors

Kids who are addicted to smartphones may have an imbalance in the brain

The Phones We Love Too Much

How smartphones hijack our minds

Our toxic smartphone addiction

We are wasting our lives

Our minds can be hijacked: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia

Exploiting the Neuroscience of Internet Addiction

Facebook told advertisers it can identify teens feeling 'insecure' and 'worthless': Leaked documents said to describe how the social network shares psychological insights on young people with advertisers