The word “summit” can refer to
the highest point at the end of a journey.
For Dakota Medical Foundation and its partners,
this summit was just the start.
The Inaugural Summit • Digital Addiction and Dopamine • Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence
Dakota Medical Foundation hosted its first annual Summit on Tuesday, August 15th, 2023. The event was sponsored by the Matto Foundation and held at the Avalon Events Center in Fargo, North Dakota.
Hundreds of concerned medical providers, parents, teachers, and community members came together in person and online to hear from Stanford psychiatrist Dr. Anna Lembke, who’s at the forefront of digital addiction and witnesses its effects on the individuals she treats.
Pat Traynor, the Executive Director of the Dakota Medical Foundation, opened the Summit by illuminating current health statistics, highlighting those related to social media and digital device use. Dr. Anna Lembke proceeded to describe digital addiction and explain physiologically how it is hijacking the pleasure centers of our brains. Kevin Wallevand of WDAY News followed up by guiding a question and answer session between the audience and Dr. Lembke until the conclusion of the Summit.
Unwell, Healthy Young People
Dr. Anna Lembke sees an increasing number of young people experiencing intense anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stress, even though they are otherwise healthy. The common denominator? Many of these young people consume highly addictive substances and/or media, including digital media.
Dr. Lembke appeared in the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma,” an unvarnished look at the impact of social media on our lives. This documentary exposed how social media is designed to be addictive and enables a false sense of value.
Social media and digital media channels systematically show us what we find pleasurable and keep divvying it out to us on our screens without limit, enticing us to want to see more and then even more. Lembke explained the pain and pleasure centers in our brains are closely linked, and an inability to maintain a delicate balance between the two can have disastrous and far-reaching consequences. Addiction can occur over time when the delicate balance is not maintained. In the case of social media and screen use, the statistics are sobering, and the consequences are alarming.
Stats and Stories Inspired the Summit
Data gathered by Dakota Medical Foundation revealed 85% of providers believe healthy electronic use among youth has decreased in the last 12 months. That means teens and children spend more hours streaming online media and consuming more social media, and their mental health appears to suffer. Interviews with mental health professionals tell the same stories based on their clinical experience.
- American adults spend about seven hours daily in front of a screen. Teens (ages 13-18) use an average of nine hours per day on entertainment media, and half of them say they’re online on a near-constant basis.
- Four in 10 youth in the U.S. struggle with depression, one in five have suicidal thoughts, and one in 10 experience anxiety.
- Kids who spend more time on social media have a reported depression rate that’s more than 50% higher than those who spend the least time.
Just the Start
Dakota Medical Foundation and its regional partners are committed to developing more resources to help educate parents and professionals to prevent digital addiction and heal those suffering from it. Hosting this summit was just the start. Plans are already underway for continued education to address digital addiction.
We are grateful to our partner, the Matto Foundation, for sponsoring our inaugural DMF Summit to shine light into the darkness of addiction and inspire health and hope.
The training will focus on current trends regarding technology use, the impacts of screen use on the brain, and a special emphasis on strategies to help children, teens, and adults manage their screen use in a healthy manner.