A new series of children's books by a former New York crime reporter takes on the growing scourge of "screen addiction" that is increasingly recognized as a threat to childhood development and a disruptive force in the lives of American families.
Reporter and author Matthew Lysiak, a frequent contributor to Newsmax magazine, is releasing iShrieks, billed as "the first series geared towards the middle grade audience that acknowledges their love of scary stories while addressing the growing fixation on smart phones, tablets, and other devices that keep kids plugged into the world of the Internet."
Lysiak, the author of "Newtown: An American Tragedy" (Simon and Schuster), is marketing the series as an innovative, tween-friendly horror that will serve as a PSA of the dangers of excessive screen time.
Research now shows that long amounts of time focused on a screen can affect the brain's frontal cortex in exactly the same way that cocaine does.
These "digital drugs" are often so stimulating that they raise the dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most commonly linked to addiction and can lead to depression, anxiety, aggression and even spur psychotic-like features, according to Lysiak
Said Lysiak: "iShrieks was written as a warning sign to this upcoming tech-savvy generation, that by staring into that glowing screen, the thin line separating horror from reality can grow into much more than a work of fiction — it can turn into a living nightmare."
Lysiak told Newsmax he was inspired to write the fictional series after watching his own four-year-old daughter suddenly lose interest in her toys and outside play after getting access to her mother's old smart phone.
"There is no other word for it – she became addicted. Suddenly, staring into a screen was all she wanted to do," said Lysiak.
"Fortunately for us, we were able to identify the problem and take the phone away before it became something much worse."
Screen addiction has become a global problem. In China, doctors now consider this phenomenon a clinical disorder and have created rehabilitation centers where children are confined for months of therapy.
In the first installment of the series, Mindcraft, readers are introduced to Elsa Wednesday, a ravenous fan of the video game Minecraft. In the second book, The Charlie, Charlie Challenge, readers are introduced to Hannah Smart, an 11- year-old who just received her first smartphone.
iShrieks will be available in paperback and digital download on Amazon Oct. 25. Tim Jacobus, the legendary illustrator who designed cover art for the now-famous Goosebumps series, has designed the first cover.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.