Areas of Confusion

In the addiction field, one of the confusing aspects is trying to encompass all the different manifestations of addiction, and how someone can develop an addiction to a substance (even a harmless one like Earl Grey tea) or to a habit, or a quirky behavior, or even a person. How does one disorder assume such an astonishing number of forms?

Writer Stephen Greenhut points out that the specter of social media addiction threatens such widely divergent groups as liberal academics and social conservatives. In the eyes of critics, he says,

[…] new technologies are exactly like narcotics, gambling or alcohol — in that they rewire adolescent brains and lead to depression, self-destructive behaviors, sleep disorders and mood swings.

One problem with this is that various groups and individuals expect the government to solve the problem by regulating tech platforms as if they were substances like tobacco or alcohol, which is a wild idea. Greenhut writes,

We should all be skeptical that the same government that can’t balance a budget can revamp the dominant form of modern communications and boost young people’s self-esteem…

Anyone who thinks legislators are clever enough to craft meaningful regulations controlling technologies they don’t understand has never paid close attention to the legislative process.

This started back in the early years of the century, when evidence seemed to point to an increase in aggressive behavior caused by violent video games. Subsequent research has caused that fear to calm down somewhat. There has been a dawning realization that maybe children are being over-protected in ways that don’t really contribute to any kind of betterment in their general well-being, in either the mental or physical sense.

The author also points out how dangerous it has become to let kids be more on the “free-range” side, what with parents being arrested for endangerment and neglect if a child is allowed to walk farther than the front yard. A lot of parents have stopped letting children enjoy such free and informal social activities as… just hanging out.

Prepare for a jaw-dropping pronouncement — kids need something to do! More and more, the American trend has been to prevent them from taking part in real, routine, mundane, everyday life, and nobody is benefitting from that loss.

Social media is a tough institution to worry about because it really includes two enormous areas. There are the beguiling devices themselves, and there is the connectivity to other humans, which can lead to bonding, animosity, or anything in between.

And how much of it is FOMO? Fear of Missing Out can keep a person scrolling or refreshing the screen in hopes of staying current with the same concerns that other people are currently obsessed with. Aside from feeding food obsession and encouraging such disorders as anorexia, electronic socializing can even spill over into other potentially problematic areas like sex addiction, gambling, and more. To get this all sorted out is a huge challenge.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Social-media moral panic caused by infantilizing teens,”, 09/20/23
Image by Marco Verch Professional/CC BY 2.0 DEED

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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