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Sad, Mad, and Bad - Child mental illness, or too much gaming


By Cris Rowan 


One of the most hotly debated topics by participants who attend the Foundation Series Workshops is the premise that children are not born mentally ill, but rather that society makes them that way through abuse or neglect. Failure of researchers to discover any physiological or genetic cause for mental illness resulted in the American Psychiatric Association, the National Institutes of Mental Health, and the DSM-5 to redirect mental health research away from nature toward nurture, or environmental influences (see commentary below by Colin A. Ross Biology and Genetics in DSM-5).


As a result of this recent shift in focus of mental health research, primary attachment between parent and child is receiving more and more attention, as attachment is an important determinant for child mental health and wellbeing. An all too common outcome associated with failure of primary attachment,is a diversity of challenging and problematic child behaviors. Sad, mad, and bad, it's starting to look like maybe these one in six Canadian children with a diagnosed mental illness really are not "sick" after all. As parents (and teachers) attach more and more to technology, they detach from children, further exacerbating already existing attachment disorders, and propelling children into technology addictions at an alarming rate. This article by pediatric occupational therapist Cris Rowan explores the origins of child mental illness, and directs child health and education teams away from the 'old school' child mental illness model, toward more healthy, environmentally driven strategies that build child and family capacity, resiliency, and wellness.  


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Cris in the News


American Psychology Association's National Conference 

Cris has been invited to speak at the American Psychology Association's national conference in Washington, DC August 9-11, 2014 on a panel discussing the impact of technology on children.


Digital Dementia in Youth
Cris was interviewed on CKNW News on January 21, 2014 from 4:30 to 5:00 PM regarding Digital Dementia in youth.


Uses of Technology in School

Cris was interviewed by Nitya Agrawal and Mara Casebeer for their documentary "Uses of Technology in Schools" on January 9, 2014. They are participating in two competitions. The first is C-Span's Student Cam. where students submit a video for Congress. The other one is the White House: Student Film Festival, where the video is addressed to the President.

What's New


Check out our new Letter/Number Banner and Desktop Strips to improve printing output speeds for children. 


Reference our new Technology Usage Guidelines for Children & Youth - Healthy Tips created by Cris Rowan, CEO Zone'in Programs Inc. in conjunction with Dr. Andrew Doan, neuroscientist and Dr, Hilarie Cash, Director of reSTART Internet Addiction Recovery Program, with contributions from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society.

Like to read? Check out our new Zone'in Recommended Reading! 


Foundation Series Workshop Schedule


February 8, 2014 - Brackendale, BC

Workshop for Early Intervention staff sponsored by Squamish Child Care Resource and Referral.

Contact person: Lisa McIntosh  604-815-4144


February 18, 2014 - Delta, BC

Workshop for health and education professionals on the impact of technology on child development and learning sponsored by the Delta Community Literacy Committee.

Contact person: Lynda Brummitt  604-818-3290


February 21, 2014 - Vancouver, BC

Workshop for education and health professionals on the impact of technology on children; sponsored by Special Education Association of BC.

Contact person: Mary Berg 


April 3, 4, 2014 - Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Keynote speaker and workshop presenter at annual Autism Conference on the impact of technology on children sponsored by UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's Hospital. 

Contact person: Tiffany Cook,  319-368-5742


August 24, 2014 - Kelowna, BC
Workshop for professionals sponsored by Early Learning, Literacy CMOS & UBCO, SD No. 23 

Contact person: Donna Kozak  250-718-5332

Research and News Review

Diagnosis of ADHD 

The following motion was put forward by Jim Dobbin in the UK Parliament on January 15, 2014

"That this House notes the 10 fold increase over 10 years of labelling children with diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); further notes the pharmaceutical drugs prescribed for this condition are similar to cocaine, have numerous side effects including suicide, depression and anxiety and costs the health service tens of millions of pounds; affirms that there is no objective test to demonstrate the existence of this condition and that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed deep concern about children being misdiagnosed with ADHD; strenuously opposes the unnecessary drugging of children; calls for rigorous control of the prescribing of psychoactive drugs to children; and further calls for NHS money currently spent on pharmaceutical drugs to be diverted into research into the dietary and environmental causes of the symptoms currently labelled as ADHD".


The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder: The Number of Diagnoses Soared Amid a 20-Year Drug Marketing Campaign

By Alan Schwarz for the New York Times on December 15, 2013

The rise of A.D.H.D. diagnoses and prescriptions for stimulants over the years coincided with a remarkably successful two-decade campaign by pharmaceutical companies to publicize the syndrome and promote the pills to doctors, educators and parents. With the children's market booming, the industry is now employing similar marketing techniques as it focuses on adult A.D.H.D., which could become even more profitable.


Biology and Genetics in DSM-5

By Colin A. Ross for Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, Vol 15 No 3 195-8, 2013.
The idea that DSM disorders are separate diseases with distinct pathophysiologies has now been disconfirmed by the DSM-5, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Institutes of Mental Health. Commentary states there is no demonstrated physiological, genetic, or phenotypic specificity to the different DSM-5 disorders.


Video games and the depressed teenager 

By Roni Caryn Rabin on January 11, 2014 for the Well   
Children who were more impulsive and less comfortable with other children spent more time playing video games, the study found. Two years later, these heavy gamers, who played an average of 31 hours a week, compared with 19 hours a week for other students, were more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and social phobias.  


Internet gaming addiction: Current perspectives

By Daria Kuss for Psychology Research and Behavior Management 2013; 6: 125-137
The holistic approach adopted here not only highlights empirical research that evidences neurobiologic correlates of Internet gaming addiction and the establishment of a preliminary diagnosis, but also emphasizes the necessity of an indepth understanding of the meaning, context, and practices associated with gaming. 


Apptivity Seat for iPad

Manufacturer says: Insert and lock your iPad to this baby seat to "engage baby while protecting your device from baby's sticky fingers". Warning - this device places your child at risk for obesity, developmental delay, sleep disorder, aggression, self-regulation difficult, anxiety, depression, attention deficit, autism, learning disabilities, and poor school performance."


No Time to Think - documentary on technology addiction by Brian Huston 

By Amy Wang on January 5, 2014 for the Oregonian

A Portland director's newest film, "No Time to Think," explores addiction to and obsession with new technologies and devices through the eyes of young people in treatment in Washington's ReStart Internet and Technology Addiction Recovery Program.  


11 Things I wish every parent knew
By Dr. Stephen Cowan for MindBodyGreen on January 11, 2014
After 25 years practicing pediatrics, and caring for thousands of children, Dr. Stephen Cowan noticed some patterns that offered him a deeper vision of health. Here are some of those invaluable lessons.  


How do e-books change the reading experience?

By Mohsin Hamid on December 31, 2013 for the New York Times
In the world of intrusive technology, we must engage in kind of a struggle if we wish to gain moments of solitude.


Are Apps becoming a human crutch?
By Katie Davis and Howard Gardner for the Seattle Times on January 7, 2014
A NEW suite of killer apps has arrived. These apps, which use predictive search technology, promise to answer questions before you ask them - or even before you know what those questions are. 

NJ Public Schools to Require Social Media Classes
On January 10, 2014 for My Fox DCC

Facebook could soon become required reading for middle school students in New Jersey. A new bill would make a social media class mandatory for all sixth-through-eighth grade students in New Jersey Public Schools. 


Video Games Do Affect Social Outcomes: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Effects of Violent and Prosocial Video Game Play
By Tobias Greitemeyer and Dirk O. Mugge for Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin; published online January 23, 2014
Data from 98 independent studies with 36,965 participants revealed that for both violent video games and prosocial video games, there was a significant association with social outcomes.



Kid Brains, Video Games, and Brain Development
For Coronado Student and Family Enrichment 20 min. presentation by Dr. Andrew Doan from Real Battle Ministries.

In China, teenagers' online dependency has been a significant issue for a decade. In 2007 the China Communist Youth League claimed that over 17 per cent of its 13 to 17-year-olds were addicted to the internet, the following year the country became the first to declare internet addiction to be a clinical disorder and one of the top health threats to its young people.

Author Simon Sinek discusses millennials and the possible reasons for the rise in hyperactivity and ADHD in youths with Trish Regan and Adam Johnson on Bloomberg Television's "Street Smart."
Zone'in Products

Sedentary, neglected, isolated, and overstimulated, the new millennium child can no longer pay attention and learn. Zone'in Products are designed by an occupational therapist to enhance child development and learning, ensuring successful futures.


Zone'in - enhancing attention, learning and self-regulation.

Move'in - teaches children to print, the foundation for literacy.

Unplug'in - builds skill and confidence in activities other than technology.

Live'in - media literacy guide for home, school and community.


Product Preview  


Virtual Child - The terrifying truth about what technology is doing to children

Virtual Child

By Cris Rowan, pediatric occupational therapist.

Virtual Child documents the impact technology has had on the developing child, and proposes tools and techniques to manage balance between activities children need for growth and success with technology use. 

Need more info? Visit


About the Author
Cris Rowan is a pediatric occupational therapist committed to enhancing child health and academic performance. Well known activist, speaker, sensory specialist and author, Cris is the "Go To" expert on child learning, development and technology overuse. Cris has provided over 200 workshops for health and education professionals, and is currently developing the Creating Sustainable Futures Program for a First Nations Community.
Training & Consultation

Instructor training for Foundation Series Workshops places pediatric occupational therapists on the cutting edge as experts in the field of technology's impact on child development.

Zone'in Training

Innovative team-based approach to manage balance between activities children need to grow and succeed with technology use.

Cris Rowan is now offering private phone/Skype consultations. 

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Zone'in Programs Inc. 2014