Digital addiction not taken seriously as a real condition

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FLINT (WJRT) - (05/19/17) - Tech experts say digital addiction isn't taken as seriously as gambling, but the threat of being a slave to our devices is a real problem.

Friday on ABC12, 20/20 spotlights the problem among several families, including a Michigan teen obsessed with video games. He plays them 12 hours a day, to the point of crippling his social skills.

Marcus Paroske, a professor at the University of Michigan Flint, says studies show incessant gamers' brains work similar to people with gambling addictions.

"It makes perfect sense that someone would spend 12 hours a day on the video game because it is firing parts of your brain that require attention all the time," Paroske said.

He says it's similar with social media. Those companies have an entire business model set up to keep us using with positive reinforcement.

"Everything, down to your email application, your Facebook page and your Instagram, are designed to give you random and immediate rewards, such as likes and friend requests. Those are pleasurable, which we keep going back for them more and more," Paroske said.

The professor believes we are on the brink of having a national conversation about tech use. In five or 10 years, he sees us pulling back as we better understand the consequences.

"We are not going to un-invent these things. We are going to continue to use them. It's a matter of fitting them into our lives to minimize how they hurt us," Paroske said.

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