Are We Giving Our Kids Drugs?


I’m the senior editor of PULSE Magazine, which is a publication for alumni and friends of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, and I just published one of the most terrifying stories I’ve ever read or worked on.

We live in an incredibly connected world. Everyone has a smartphone, including our children — some at a very young age. And, now, studies show that the same chemical response that we get from gambling, alcohol and drug use is present when we receive text messages. The difference is, adults can manage dopamine more successfully than adolescents can.

One of the sources I used in the story was a school principal for 26 years and is now getting his doctorate in neuroscience. He said excessive smartphone use should be a huge concern for parents today, given the scientific evidence of how these devices affect our brains. And then he blew my mind with the following statement: “What in essence is happening is we’re allowing children from 6-10 years of age access to our liquor cabinet when we give them a smartphone. They’re constantly texting so they’re continually getting high.”

Have you ever tried to take your phone away from your teenager? How did that work for you? I’ve heard some pretty concerning stories from parents who have grounded their children from devices and the withdrawal was intense. One mom said she was convinced her son had ADD and other behavioral disorders. Turns out, after eight days of no devices, he became the kid he used to be. (Read the post here.)

It doesn’t stop there. Apparently, we’re not setting our kids up for success for future careers or for future family interaction when it’s their turn to be parents. Watch this video.

I’m not raising teenagers or pre-teens right now. I have no idea about the struggles of raising adolescents. I do understand the desire of wanting to give your kids what they want, and the joy it can bring when your kid fits in with other kids. I understand that my “need” for connection is going to make me feel the “need” to give my kid a phone at some point so I can know what they’re doing and where they are at all times, given the fact that we live in a dangerous world.

But, make no mistake, the digital world is just as dangerous. It has a huge dark side. I think Momo on YouTube Kids has taught us that. We have to monitor our children and their smartphone usage. We have to be willing to take responsibility for something they’re simply not mature enough to handle. I pray daily that I will have the strength to do that when my time comes. Because my children deserve the best, even when they don’t know what that “best” looks like.

There’s so much about smartphones, video games, electronics, etc., and the effects these things have on our brains that we just simply don’t know yet. But preliminary studies are eye-opening.

Be careful. Know the risks. Monitor the usage.

And let me know how you handle your kids and their phones. I’m going to need advice for when it’s my turn to deal with this.



P.S. I found this article very helpful while I was researching ways to take breaks from my phone. Maybe it can help you, too. 


  1. This is a ridiculous article and a gross misunderstanding of how the brain works. This is just the pleasure response, which is “activated” anytime we experience something pleasurable. Rollercoaster? Getting a letter from Grandma with $5 in it? Going to the pet store to pick out a puppy? All actions that likely activate this brain system. There are probably some real concerns with technology for young children and teens, but I’m a neuroscientist and I’m URGING you to stop freaking people out for no good reason.

  2. Technology and constant virtual connection are more and more prevalent in our lives every day. I’m not a neuroscientist or anything, but I have older children, two of whom are adults now and smartphones are extensions of their bodies, personally and professionally. There’s no escaping the presence of smartphones, but for younger kiddos, they definitely need to learn moderation so that they can learn to develop relationships in person rather than via smartphone. This is a great article, at least from a parent’s perspective. Young kids cannot differentiate what is real, what is fantasy, and what is a hoax. As a mom, and again, not a neuroscientist, I can certainly attest that this is indeed a great article and right on par with actual experiences with young children and exposure to smartphones/tablets.

  3. Hi Amanda,
    Thank you for your feedback. The article I wrote for my magazine was based on research I was given by experts on the brain, such as yourself. According to them, and you, the pleasure response is activated anytime you experience something pleasurable. The problem is the constant flood of pleasure due to constant texting and constant social media interaction where the $5 from Grandma and new puppy are occasional things. The constant pleasure from smartphones can lead to addiction, which is never a good thing. It wasn’t my intention to freak people out — I merely wanted to call attention to the amount of time we allow our kids to access their phones. Moderation in all things is usually the best way to go and technology and smartphone access is no different. I think it’s worth the time to call attention to things that may be harmful to our children. What the readers do with the information is up to them. I will say that once I detoxed myself from my phone, I noticed many positive differences in myself. When I implemented it with my children there was nothing but positive results as well. It’s always good to have a discussion so I appreciate your participation!

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