Dr. Nick Kardaras is a husband, parent of two teen twin boys, a sought-after digital addiction thought leader, an academic, and an entrepreneur. He is an innovative, compassionate, and hard-working leader on a mission to wake us up from our digital slumber. He wrote Glow Kids, the seminal book on the clinical, neurological, and sociological aspects of Technology Addiction. And you can now preorder his new book, Digital Madness: How Social Media Is Driving Our Mental Health Crisis—and How to Restore Our Sanity, which will be released in September.
As a business leader, Doctor Kardaras is the CEO and Chief Clinical Officer of Maui Recovery and Omega Recovery in Austin, Texas. The facility in Hawaii is for adults, and in Austin, he and his team treating young people in response to the epidemic of mental health issues growing in the digital age. These include tech addiction, depression, anxiety, “failure to launch,” self-harm, substance abuse, and feeling lonely/empty.
He and I met recently to discuss his views on various topics, including how to prevent and address digital addiction in teens. He believes that the best way to help teens (and people of all ages) to get off devices is to expand their personal purpose and passions. He offers these five approaches to parents, guardians, and educators based on his extensive research and clinical experience:
1. Start an open-hearted discussion about what teens value. Remember, different generations have very different experiences that can lead to personal likes and dislikes —finding a teen’s passions can be like digging for gold and takes patience. For example, you can start by asking, “What are your favorite things to watch online and why?
2. Ask about current events and other social justice issues. But, first, explore their ideas and opinions without debate or contradiction so they can express themselves and then help them develop critical thinking by respectfully challenging their views.
3. Encourage experimentation with creativity. Support trying out many options, including drawing, painting, writing, acting, singing, cooking, crafts, or entrepreneurship. Remember, just because you like something does not mean your teens will; give them options and help them develop new pathways to innovation offline.
4. Explore their feelings on spirituality. Dr. Kardaras starts these discussions with one question: “What do you think happens to a person when they die?”
5. Help them to be in nature as much as possible, without devices.
You can learn more about Dr. Kardaras and his timely work here. Dr. Kardaras advises that exploring purpose and passions will be further enhanced with peers and other adults, in addition to the guidance teens get from parents.
Dream Lab is a program for 13-18 year-olds launching on July 25th and offers a peer-centric process for developing purpose, passions, and plans. The program offers a way to stop worrying about the future by creating one, meeting new friends from around the country and developing projects that can strengthen college and job applications.