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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

Addictive Video Games Pushed Into Classrooms By Silicon Valley

By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D.   June 8, 2018 

 Nearly all teen shooters over the past two decades have played many hours of recreational violent games that reward players for being proficient at killing.    Now tech companies are pushing addictive educational video games into American classrooms.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with the MacArthur Foundation, has poured millions into GlassLabs, a tech company that does research on video games for the classroom. The company's website claims their products will “dramatically improve student learning.” Yet research shows that digital products produce negative learning effects. 

One of the most popular video games in the nation is Microsoft's Minecraft which is used in thousands of classrooms and has more than 100 million registered users. 

According to Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, one of the nation's foremost addiction experts, Minecraft is in “every way -- clinically and neurologically -- an addicting drug.” There is both dopamine increase and hormonal-arousal, a potent and addictive combination. 

The most habit-forming and addicting reward schedule found in casino slot machines is used in Minecraft. 

Kardaras says Minecraft is “.....digital heroin': How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies.” 

A mother had been worried about the changes in her son, John. He had lost interest in baseball and reading and refused to do his chores. He told his mother, he could not get the cues of Minecraft out of his mind and could see them when he woke up in the morning. 

When she tried to take his Minecraft game away, he threw severe temper tantrums. Sensing that something was wrong, she entered his bedroom in the middle of the night to check on him. She found him sitting up in bed, wide-eyed with bloodshot eyes staring into the distance as his glowing iPad lay beside him. and had gone into a trance. Frightened, she had to shake him repeatedly to bring him out of the trance. 

A teacher reported her students would become impatient and switch from their e-book study program to Minecraft. When the teacher would ask them to put away their tablets, some of the students would become defiant and refuse. 

Lisa Guernsey, an education and technology journalist, notes in “An 'Educational' Video Game Has Taken Over My House,” that she has a love-hate relationship with Minecraft. “One minute I’m mesmerized with its potential for encouraging children to get creative, explore, and think critically about what it takes to build new communities. The next I’m shrieking at my kids and issuing ridiculous threats.” 

Addicted gamers can behave like violent, crazed drug addicts when their games are taken away. 

In 2007 Dan Petric, a 16-year-old normal boy, had been playing Halo 3 at a friend's house for up to 18 hours a day without taking a break. His father, a minister, was very concerned about his son's video game habits and refused to let him purchase the game. Dan bought it anyhow and his father took it away from him. A few days later Dan shot both of his parents, killing his mother and severely wounding his father with a handgun that his father kept in a locked box. Five years later from his jail cell, Dan told ABC News, “I'm used to playing these video games and at the end of every round, everything just resets….everyone is still there.” 

Kardaras believes that video games in general, and especially video games in the classroom, are a problem because the so-called educational cure is really a digital drug in sheep's clothing. 

A brain imaging study by Indiana University School of Medicine finds that video game playing alters the brain in the same way that drug addiction does. 

Kardaras reports that video games, computers, cell phones, and tablets are all “digital drugs” that stunt a child's neural development. In his clinical work with more than 1,000 teens, Kardaras found it easier to treat heroin and crystal meth addicts than a true-tech addict. 

Commander Dr. Andrew Doan, a recovering video game addict and head of Addiction Research for the U.S. Navy and the Pentagon, calls video games “digital pharmakeia” (Greek for “drugs”). According to Doan, the entire focus of the gaming industry is to make games as stimulating and arousing to children as possible. 

Because glowing interactive screens can be more powerful than morphine, some video games are being used for pain-management medicine and treatment of burn victims by the U.S. military. 

Dr. Peter Whybrow, Director of Neuroscience at UCLA, calls computers “electronic cocaine.” 

In 2012 a brain imaging study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences found the brains of video-gamers mirror damage done by drug addiction. Chinese researchers call computers “electronic heroin” for the brain. 

China has identified Internet Addiction Disorder as its number one health crisis with more than 20 million Internet-addicted teens. South Korea has opened 400 tech addictions rehab facilities and has issued warnings about the potential dangers of screen and technology. 

Yet American bureaucrats are racing to get a computer into the hands of every kindergartener. 

Lawmakers must take responsibility in calling a halt to the tech industry's preying on children to hype their harmful and useless technology. They must take the lead in getting these addictive products defunded. 

Parents also must take responsibility over their child's learning and demand the child be opted out of screen learning. 

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