10080

total minutes we have to spend in a week

3.5

minutes of meaningful conversation in a week

2570

average minutes spent on screen time in a week

45

average minutes spent at the dinner table in a week

Book Highlights

what you will learn from this important book

Research Makes it Clear

In 2009, the spike in adolescents being diagnosed with ADHD was backed up by research that showed the link between technology and our brains.

Cyberspace Children

The birth of social media creates alarming statistics on children's use of technology, including the adverse affects, including physical abnormalities.

Social Media and Self-Esteem

The dopamine that's released with every "like" on a photo or every "comment" on a post is addictive, and will drive our children's self esteem in negative ways.

Meditation Anchors Us All

The quality of our children's lives is only as good as the relationship they have with their inner self. Meditation is an anchor, an integral part of this connection.

Video Tips

from the Author

The Importance of Outdoor Play

The natural habit for children is outdoor play, not sitting in from of a video game or other electronic device. In this video Tom gives you an example of the street where he lives and how he encourages outdoor play for his kids and the neighbors kids. Together let's unplug America.

A Walk in the Park

A walk in the park isn't what it used to be. Instead of noticing nature, playing in the grass, and talking with friends, people now have their heads down buried in devices.

Free Samples

read a few snippets from the book

We see it everywhere: at the park, in restaurants, and inside our homes and cars—kids connected to handheld devices and disconnected from the world around them. According to the latest research, the average thirteen-year-old spends eight hours per day, seven days a week, glued to a screen. Yes, this is problematic, but for every problem there is a solution.


Page 3

From 2002 until today I’ve been a member of the Intervention & Referral Services Committee (I&RS) at a local high school where I work as a counselor. The role of the committee is to provide academic accommodations to students with temporary or permanent disabilities as long as there is evidence that the disability is affecting the student’s learning. Some common disabilities my committee has reviewed over the years include concussions, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and specific learning issues.

During the 2009 school year the types of disabilities referred to my committee started to change. We began receiving countless referrals for teenage students diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD, is a neurological condition that causes a combination of the following symptoms: inattention; disorganization and lack of focus; and sometimes impulsivity and hyperactivity. These symptoms are very noticeable by age five, and the average age at diagnosis is eight years old. Strangely, my committee was receiving dozens of referrals for fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds newly diagnosed with the disorder.

As a school counselor by day and private practice therapist by night, I have more than twenty years of experience working with ADHD children and their families, and this influx of attention deficit teenagers wasn’t making sense to me. Was it possible that so many parents and teachers had overlooked the symptoms when these kids were in elementary or middle school? Could this many children possibly have slipped through the cracks, I wondered? Something wasn’t adding up.

I started to aggressively research this new ADHD phenomenon and even consulted with neighboring school districts. My colleagues saw precisely what I was seeing—an inordinate number of teenagers being diagnosed with ADHD. My research led me to the work of Dr. Gary Small, professor of psychiatry and Director of the UCLA Longevity Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Dr. Small is one of the world’s top innovators in science and technology. In 2007 Small began researching technology’s impact on the brain and discovered that when research subjects spent as little as an hour a day online, the activity patterns in their brains changed dramatically. According to Small, “the human brain is malleable, always changing in response to its environment.” Dr. Small explains that the brain is very sensitive. Every stimulation the brain receives causes a complex cascade of neurochemical electrical consequences. With repeated stimuli the neural circuits in the brain become excited and if other neural circuits are neglected they will be weakened. A young person’s brain, which is still developing, is particularly sensitive and is also the kind of brain that is most exposed to modern technology.

Dr. Small discovered that because kids of this generation spend so much time using powerful electronic devices, their brains were changing, something known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections, leaving behind past traits and developing new ones. Could all of this “screen time” be changing kids’ brains, thereby causing older children to display inattentiveness, lack of focus, and disorganization—all symptoms of ADHD? According to Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, director of Stanford University’s Impulse Control Disorders Clinic, “the more we become used to just sound bites and tweets, the less patient we will become with more complex, more meaningful information. And I do think we might lose the ability to analyze things with any depth and nuance. Like any skill, if you don’t use it you lose it.” This technology use and brain neuroplasticity research prompted Dr. John Ratey, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, to coin the term acquired attention deficit disorder, describing how too much screen time was rewiring kids’ brains. This acquired attention deficit term fascinated me because it meant that potentially thousands of teenagers were being misdiagnosed with a disorder they didn’t have and were even being prescribed powerful medication to treat it. I decided to dig deeper with my caseload of recently diagnosed ADHD students at the high school. I gathered records and notes from their elementary and middle school counselors and teachers and, as I had suspected, I could find no evidence of ADHD symptoms at earlier stages in their education.

Page 3

From 2002 until today I’ve been a member of the Intervention & Referral Services Committee (I&RS) at a local high school where I work as a counselor. The role of the committee is to provide academic accommodations to students with temporary or permanent disabilities as long as there is evidence that the disability is affecting the student’s learning. Some common disabilities my committee has reviewed over the years include concussions, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and specific learning issues.

During the 2009 school year the types of disabilities referred to my committee started to change. We began receiving countless referrals for teenage students diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD, is a neurological condition that causes a combination of the following symptoms: inattention; disorganization and lack of focus; and sometimes impulsivity and hyperactivity. These symptoms are very noticeable by age five, and the average age at diagnosis is eight years old. Strangely, my committee was receiving dozens of referrals for fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds newly diagnosed with the disorder.

As a school counselor by day and private practice therapist by night, I have more than twenty years of experience working with ADHD children and their families, and this influx of attention deficit teenagers wasn’t making sense to me. Was it possible that so many parents and teachers had overlooked the symptoms when these kids were in elementary or middle school? Could this many children possibly have slipped through the cracks, I wondered? Something wasn’t adding up.

I started to aggressively research this new ADHD phenomenon and even consulted with neighboring school districts. My colleagues saw precisely what I was seeing—an inordinate number of teenagers being diagnosed with ADHD. My research led me to the work of Dr. Gary Small, professor of psychiatry and Director of the UCLA Longevity Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Dr. Small is one of the world’s top innovators in science and technology. In 2007 Small began researching technology’s impact on the brain and discovered that when research subjects spent as little as an hour a day online, the activity patterns in their brains changed dramatically. According to Small, “the human brain is malleable, always changing in response to its environment.” Dr. Small explains that the brain is very sensitive. Every stimulation the brain receives causes a complex cascade of neurochemical electrical consequences. With repeated stimuli the neural circuits in the brain become excited and if other neural circuits are neglected they will be weakened. A young person’s brain, which is still developing, is particularly sensitive and is also the kind of brain that is most exposed to modern technology.

Dr. Small discovered that because kids of this generation spend so much time using powerful electronic devices, their brains were changing, something known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections, leaving behind past traits and developing new ones. Could all of this “screen time” be changing kids’ brains, thereby causing older children to display inattentiveness, lack of focus, and disorganization—all symptoms of ADHD? According to Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, director of Stanford University’s Impulse Control Disorders Clinic, “the more we become used to just sound bites and tweets, the less patient we will become with more complex, more meaningful information. And I do think we might lose the ability to analyze things with any depth and nuance. Like any skill, if you don’t use it you lose it.” This technology use and brain neuroplasticity research prompted Dr. John Ratey, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, to coin the term acquired attention deficit disorder, describing how too much screen time was rewiring kids’ brains. This acquired attention deficit term fascinated me because it meant that potentially thousands of teenagers were being misdiagnosed with a disorder they didn’t have and were even being prescribed powerful medication to treat it. I decided to dig deeper with my caseload of recently diagnosed ADHD students at the high school. I gathered records and notes from their elementary and middle school counselors and teachers and, as I had suspected, I could find no evidence of ADHD symptoms at earlier stages in their education.

Page 26

A January 2016 headline in the New York Post proclaimed, “Many NYC students so tech-oriented they can’t even sign their own names.” That’s right, scores of students in New York City, including the children of some state lawmakers, can’t sign their own names because all they know are keypads and screens. This means they will be unable to properly sign checks, credit cards, or contracts someday. Pretty scary! None of us anticipated something this extreme, but it is very real and is just one example of how our children’s overindulgence in technology is not only reducing their mental and emotional capacity but also their fine motor skills.

Studies conducted with college students over the past few years have also found that smartphones are making the majority of them hallucinate. That’s right—hallucinate. It is called “phantom vibration syndrome.” Roughly once every two weeks, the majority of the students who were surveyed experienced a “phantom vibration,” or a buzzing sensation in their pocket, even though their phone wasn’t vibrating. According to Robert Rosenberger, a professor in the School of Public Policy at Georgia Tech, “The phone actually becomes a part of you, and you become trained to perceive the phone’s vibrations as an incoming call or text. When a phone shifts in the pocket, it triggers a muscle spasm in your leg that resembles a phone vibration, even though no one is calling.”

Around fifteen years ago, after I bought my first cellphone, I experienced this phenomenon. I kept my cellphone in my pocket on vibrate all the time and occasionally felt it vibrate only to reach into my empty pocket and discover that my phone was on my desk. At first I didn’t realize why I was having this sensation and figured it must be a kind of Pavlovian reaction. I even went to a doctor just to make sure there wasn’t something wrong with me. I remember asking the doctor if it was possible that the muscles in my leg had learned to experience the vibration from my phone, which was why I was having these spasms. I remember him pausing with a puzzled look on his face saying, “Yes, I guess that is possible.” I think he learned something from me that day.

Page 105

Regardless of the problems that clients come to me with, they all have the same thing in common—their thoughts are controlling them rather than the other way around. I developed an effective strategy to help my clients take control of their thoughts and therefore their lives. I call it walking with a lighter step and it is something you can learn and your children can learn. Here’s how it works.

My office suite is located on the second floor of an office building that faces the rear parking lot. During my initial session with clients I ask them if they know where their car is parked. I then ask them to point it out to me from my office window. Then I ask how long they think it would take for them to walk to their car from my office. The answer for each person is always a little different. Some will say, “A minute.” Others will say, “Forty seconds.” Others might say, “Two minutes.” Next, I ask this: “Let’s assume that when you return for your session next week, you park in that exact same spot. How long do you think it would take you next week to walk to your car after our session has ended?” The answer is always the same as their first response. If a client said thirty seconds, they would say thirty seconds again. I then ask, “Why is this? Why wouldn’t it take a little longer or a little faster to walk to the car?” Their response is usually along the lines of “I don’t know; because my stride is always the same” or “because I’m a fast walker.”

The purpose of this metaphor is to point out to them that nearly everything we do throughout the day is habitual, automatic. We shower the same way. We eat our meals the same way, and we drive our cars the same way, to name just a few activities. If you eat right-handed, you’re not suddenly going to eat left-handed. If you are a fast chewer of your food, you’re not suddenly going to start chewing slowly. Ultimately, most of what we do all day long is unconscious, meaning we don’t have to “think” about what we are doing. Something as simple as walking, whether it’s to the car or to a neighbor’s house, is unconscious; you don’t have to think about it to do it, like riding a bike. After your brain has learned how to do something, you no longer have to try—it just happens.

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Resources for Parents

no fluff, just substance

There are so many reasons why “unplugging” is beneficial to the family unit, and for society as a whole, but the question has always been, “how?” Tom Kersting is all about taking action. As an avid researcher, he has put together many resources for parents to help their digitally distracted kids.

Sign the Contract

Sign the Contract

Having a contract when you issue your child a cell phone (or any electronic device) is imperative for establishing boundaries. Make sure to spell out the "dos" and "don'ts" as well as the consequences that will occur when rules are broken. Download a sample contract here.

Device-Free the Bedrooms

Device-Free the Bedrooms

Having electronics in the bedroom is proven to create a difficult environment for children to relax. In order to keep bedrooms device-free, try creating a nighttime "charging" station where devices are kept overnight safely locked away - each family member can have their own locker unit with wall access from the back to make charging overnight simple. For more ideas on clearing out the electronics from bedrooms, click here.

Meditate on This

Meditate on This

While meditating and doing yoga as a family may seem light years away from where you currently are, there are simple ways to set a subliminal meditative mood for our family, without overdoing it. If you look to your senses for clues, start with creating a clutter-free home. Family members should each pitch in to clear the space. Using lavender scented candles will help keep a calm feeling around the house. For more tips on easy relaxation techniques, click here.

Aim to Eat Together

Aim to Eat Together

Sitting down to dinner together is essential to developing deep, lasting family relationships. In today's drive-thru world, it is becoming less and less common, unfortunately. Make it your goal to eat together at least 3 nights a week. Try including family members in the meal planning and preparations. For example, give each family member a night to choose the meal, soup to nuts. At the table, make rituals such as sharing daily "high - lows", sharing a funny story, or just saying simply a gratitude prayer. For more ideas on how to eat together as a family, click here.

Reader Messages

some nice words about the book from our readers

Deborah Morgan - Kids Health Revolution

Deborah Morgan - Kids Health Revolution

This is an absolute must read for any parent! Love the practical tips and strategies for being more mindful...stuff not only our kids need but that can help us as parents re-connect to what is real too!

Vincent E.

Well written and relateable. I recommend the book to everyone, especially parents of young and adolescent children.

Vincent E.
Carrie DeCicco

Carrie DeCicco

Such a good informative book. Everyone should read this.

Dennis Coates

Disconnected: How To Reconnect Our Digitally Distracted KidsScreen-based digital technology is evolving and sweeping into our culture like a tsunami. And what they do for us seems miraculous. The ability to get practically any information, to answer practically any question is nothing short of amazing. Home entertainment systems are so powerful that they have all but replaced watching movies in theaters. Enjoy your movie or sporting event on your computer, laptop, tablet or phone. Hey, watch it on your watch. Smartphones now have built-in cameras far more powerful than the ones we grew up with, and you can take and save thousands of pictures at virtually no cost. Hey, make video clips with them! Share them with a single click of your phone. Kids want these devices, too. They're easy to use, no instructions required. And since all their friends have them, they want one, too. The problem is, the brains of the people who process all this digital input are changed by the experience. The developing brains of kids can be derailed. And the social media supported by them have the power to replace real human authentic in-person relationships. And the satisfaction sensations produced whenever we use them can make us addicted to them. Parents have no clue how this works or why their kids are having behavior, relationship and academic problems. Kersting's well-written book explains with clarity how the damage is done, and it's scary. He cites many studies and experts, and his experience as a school counselor and coach provide eye-opening examples of the dangers of over-using digital media. The book concludes with some really solid advice for parents who want to deal with this complex problem, to literally save the lives of their children. Parents everywhere absolutely must read this book. Before it's too late. Because the makers of these technologies don't care about the impact their products have on kids, just as cigarette manufacturers don't care about the impacts on health. Hundreds of billions of dollars will be made, and this is their motivation. Read this book now, because virtual reality devices are next, and by then it may be too late.

Dennis Coates

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About the Author

Meet the Author

Tom Kersting is a nationally renowned licensed psychotherapist, and school counselor. He has provided advice to millions through regular television appearances, radio and print, seminars and private sessions. Tom is the founder and owner of Valley Family Counseling LLC in Ridgewood, N.J, appears regularly on the most popular talk shows and news shows and has hosted television series’ and shows for A&E Network, National Geographic Channel, Food Network and Oprah’s Wellness Network. Tom has 20 years of experience working with individuals, including adolescents, and families. He is also an expert in health and fitness and is the author of the book, Losing Weight When Diets Fail (Harbor Press, 2007). He holds advanced degrees including a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from St. Thomas Aquinas College, a Master’s degree in Counseling & Human Development and a second Master’s in Administration & Supervision, both from Montclair State University. Tom also holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Hypnotherapy (alternative/non-traditional) from Kona University (formerly American Pacific University). Tom is also a former semi-professional baseball player, and is a dedicated weight-trainer and distance runner. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children.