Robert Lustig

Presentation - Dr. Robert Lustig currently is Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, and Member of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF. He also has adjunct faculty appointments at UC Hastings College of the Law, and Touro University-California. Dr. Lustig graduated from MIT in 1976, and received his M.D. from Cornell University Medical College in 1980. He completed his pediatric residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in 1983, and his clinical fellowship at UCSF in 1984. From there, he spent six years as a research associate in neuroendocrinology at The Rockefeller University. In 2013, he received his Masters of Studies in Law from UC Hastings College of the Law. Dr. Lustig is the Chief Science Officer of EatREAL, a non-profit dedicated to reversing childhood obesity and diabetes by impacting the global food supply and changing school food. Dr. Lustig is the author of many academic works, and of the popular books “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease”, the “Fat Chance Cookbook”, and “The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of our Bodies and Brains”. He has received awards for public service from UCSF, and lifetime achievement from four international dentistry societies.

Research project

Lack of digital regulation has resulted in numerous untoward behavioral effects in children, including: 1) attention, cognition, memory, and learning; 2) reading and critical thinking; 3) exposure to unwanted or inappropriate content; 4) multitasking, interruptions, and stress; 5) stimulation and self-regulation; 6) depression and emotional well-being; 7) empathy; 8) sleep; 9) loneliness; and 10) cyberbullying. Increases in childhood addiction, depression, attention deficit disorder, polarization and hate speech, and suicide have all been documented.  Yet the digital genie is out of the bottle, and there is no way to stop digitalization. Rather, the goal is to train children to understand and utilize digital information early; to be appropriate digital citizens in order to mitigate such harms.

One of the reasons that technology drives addiction is the rise in stress. Cellphone use is linked with stress, sleep loss, and depression in young adults. For boys it’s video game addiction, while girls instead appear to suffer from social media addiction. Just like sugar or alcohol exposure is not always addictive; and just like gambling or pornography is not always addictive; technology may or may not be, depending on the individual.

Development of a curriculum for helping prepubertal children with the burden of digitalization is required. While I am at IAS, I will work with the ETIS Unit of the Université de Cergy-Pontoise and the MOOC Factory of the Université de Paris-Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity on developing such a curriculum and storyboard to combat technology addiction in children.