glow kids


How much money do you think Xbox brings in a year? Or Minecraft? Or Pokémon Go?  Do you love your kids being glued to the screen, playing these games? Would you love if your kids went to school to play these games even more?   Education is a goldmine; there’s money to be made in  collection and analysis of data and selling devices and computers, investing in online “personalized assessments” and now there’s online, and very addictive, edtech GAMES.  Now a well-known addiction specialist has written a book about edtech’s new drug of choice and the harm of online game addiction.

How Screen Addiction is Damaging Kids Brains 

As Vice reports,

A new book out on August 9 called Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids by Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, one of the country’s top addiction experts, details how compulsive technology usage and reliance on screens can neurologically damage the developing brain of a child the same way that drug addiction can. Through extensive research, clinical trials with diagnosed screen addicts, and experience treating a variety of other types of addicts, the author explores the alarming reality of how children could be “stunting their own creative abilities” by constantly turning on and tuning in.

Dr. Kardaras, who grew up playing Asteroids and loved Ms. PacMan, discusses how game developers use tests to measure dopamine and adrenaline levels in order to make video games as addicting as possible. He also explains how technology might stagnate frontal cortex development. With Glow Kids, Kardaras seeks to push the thesis that we should let children’s “brains fully develop first before we expose them to these digital drugs.”

…With video games, the kid sits and plays for hours of adrenal-elevated fight-or-flight. This is not a good thing. Research has shown that this latest generation of games significantly raises dopamine levels, the key neurotransmitter associated with our pleasure/reward pathways and the key neurotransmitter in addiction dynamics. One study showed that video games raise dopamine to the same degree that sex does, and almost as much as cocaine does. So this combo of adrenaline and dopamine are a potent one-two punch with regards to addiction.

I’ve worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict—Dr. Nicholas Kardaras



Do Game Makers and Edtech KNOW that online games are addictive?

YES. As Dr. Kardaras points out in his book, the game makers spend much time and research measuring the dopamine levels and engagement levels of players. But do those who are marketing games to schools know about dopamine levels and  how these games will keep kids glued to the screen?   Read this recent post from  Samsung’s Insights blog entitled, Does Gamification Education Really Improve Learning?

Games Can Increase Engagement

Students are used to playing games, earning badges for successfully completing challenges and sharing their wins with friends. The challenge of winning a level or beating an obstacle can keep them working until they can earn that achievement. Why not put that natural affinity for gaming to use with games that teach?

Because games have become so popular, it’s possible to find high-quality educational games that are based on research and appropriate pedagogy at all levels. Many of them are even free, tied into Google Apps for Education so they can easily integrate into lesson plans and grading tools…

Gamification Hits the Brain’s Pleasure Centers

Playing games can signal the release of dopamine in students’ brains when they achieve the goal set out for them, whether they’re playing a learning game or something for fun outside of class. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. This can help students enjoy the game and create long-lasting affinity for the subject matter they’re studying.”


Games and Data Collection-Meet Glass Lab

glasslab partners

Remember that education  is a goldmine and data is currency, and algorithms can measure behavior and personality and ADHD/focus.  Will these online games collect data?   YES.  In fact, there is a project  that specifically  funnels gaming data back to the edtech folks.  This project is called GlassLabGames and they are funded by some very familiar names and make no bones about collecting the data.  The marriage of the gaming and education industry is all about data and as this title states, they knew  it was a very lucrative product even two years ago. From Assessment May Hold Key to Developers Unlocking the Lucrative School Market, 

“But unlike the millions of plays that have come before this time game plays will pour data into the sophisticated assessment engine developed by the GlassLab project. In the effort, students will be tested of their knowledge of key Common Core standards around reasoning. Then data will be gathered during their play of the game.”

Glass Lab gets all the data. Remember that these same folks  in Glass Lab have also bonded together to send all data back to the US Department of Ed via the Learning Registry.   Let that sink in.




Vice asked Dr. Kardaras about online gaming and ADHD 

How does screen tech affect behavioral disorders like ADHD, anxiety, depression, increased aggression, and psychosis?

Dr. Dimitri Christakis’ research has found that screen exposure increases the probability of getting ADHD, and several peer-reviewed studies have linked internet usage to increased anxiety and depression. I think some of the most shocking research is that which shows how kids can get psychotic-like symptoms from gaming, wherein the game blurs reality for the player. It’s known as “Game Transfer Phenomenon” and has been extensively studied by Dr. Mark Griffith and Dr. Angelica de Gortari in England. Gamers hear and see elements of the game long after they’ve stopped playing; Minecraft players start seeing the real world in the cube-forms of the game. I’ve worked with several teens who’ve had apparent psychotic breaks from their excessive gaming, and two who needed to be psychiatrically hospitalized. It’s scary stuff. We know that children develop their sense of what’s real and what isn’t—what psychologists call “reality testing”—between the ages of three and ten. If they are exposed to reality-blurring imagery during that key developmental stage, it compromises their ability to discern reality.”

Maybe it’s time to unplug the kids and Optout of online education.


Cheri Kiesecker

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