Digital technologies—smartphones and other devices, social media, video games, internet search engines—are not “smart” nor are they benign. In many ways, they substantially impair human growth, development and intelligence. They are particularly harmful to the development of our children. The negative impact digital technologies can have on our children is what I call digital retardation.

Let’s take a quick step back and consider what we are dealing with. The internet was created by and for the military. I am of the opinion that some companies, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, were created and funded by government intelligence agencies. I also strongly suspect that people like Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are phonies with average intelligence and no extraordinary skills who were simply tapped to play a role for which they have been rewarded handsomely with wealth, fame and power. Does anyone find it curious that these tech nerds are suddenly focused on bio-hacking all of humanity through vaccines, neural laces and mind-controlled virtual reality? This is the same stuff DARPA has been working on for years.

Furthermore, why would the U.S. military-industrial-intelligence complex generously provide us with something we did not ask for under the guise of it being useful and beneficial? Since when do any of these entities care about our happiness and well-being? In the 23 years since Windows 95 was released, digital technologies have morphed into an indispensable aspect of our daily lives, work environments and society. Was this our choice, or was this the intended outcome from the very start?

The naïve belief that, “I am not doing anything wrong, so I have nothing to hide,” thus surveillance is not an issue, demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what is going on here. At this point, it appears that digital devices and the internet itself were created with the intention of collecting our metadata to facilitate total surveillance. The collection of metadata is not innocuous. According to General Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, “We kill people based on metadata.”

Former (current?) CIA employee and phony “whistle-blower” Edward Snowden warns us that “Privacy isn’t about something to hide. Privacy is about something to protect—who you are.” Your identity (metadata + biometric data) is what they want, and digital technologies enable them to get it, from the cradle to the grave. They took your newborn’s DNA at the hospital on the day it was born. Did you agree to that? Or were you too busy plastering images of your baby all over Facebook and Instagram to even notice?

If you think this is trivial, consider this: The Children’s Commissioner for England released a report that states “In the future [data collected from birth] could influence which universities people are accepted to, whether they received a mortgage or even their job applications.”

Digital technologies are the linchpin of the surveillance capitalism agenda. The purpose of social media is to mine every aspect of your life to understand who you are, where you go and what you think, then create a psychological profile that can be monetized and used by advertisers and government agencies (and, of course, stolen by malicious hackers). Do you think these entities have benevolent intentions or our best interests at heart? The information they are collecting on us through our internet searches, social media usage and video game playing not only tells these agencies everything about us, it actually helps their AI algorithms learn how to be as smart (and soon smarter) than humans. They are using it to predict our behavior. Worst of all, digital technologies are a Trojan Horse into our brains that are used to program us. We are being socially engineered, but to what end?

Putting aside for a moment the mounting evidence that cellular phone radiation, Wi-Fi, EMF and RF exposure appears to cause cancer, we need look no further than the young people in our own homes to see the harmful effects of digital technology. Young people today—especially digital natives—are wholly dysfunctional. Socially stunted. Emotionally underdeveloped. Intellectually challenged. The outcome of the smart society is digital retardation.

Digital retardation is no different from a learning disability, except that it is completely avoidable. If you doubt this is a real phenomenon, consider sexting, eating Tide detergent pods, incessant selfie-taking, planking, cyber-bullying and nerd-neck. These are all evidence of digital retardation. So are families who sit silently in restaurants immersed their individual screens. The same goes for people who have to Google everything instead of learning skills or committing information to memory.

Our children are being programmed to give up privacy for social acceptance, convenience and entertainment. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Smartphones permanently damage young people’s ability to focus their mind, concentrate on a task or even read more than a few sentences in a book without averting their eyes from the page in boredom. When reading is dead, so is intellectual development. Society is doomed.

Social media has been shown to cause depression, increase suicidal tendencies and adversely impact adolescent behavior, especially when they are restricted from using it. These are also the hallmarks of drug addiction and withdrawal. Do parents with naturally moody and defiant teenagers really need such a deleterious influence competing with and undermining their authority?

The damage from digital devices is real: video games, apps and entire websites are designed with input from psychologists to ensure addiction. The dopamine hits social media users become addicted to affect the brain in the same way as cocaine. This addiction causes permanent changes in the brain of the user through the formation of scar tissue. Once formed, this damage is irreversible. In what other scenario would a parent willingly allow their children to risk permanently damaging their brains in this way?

Smart technologies seem almost intended to make us dumb, incurious, unthinking and lazy. The evidence is all around us, in our own homes and staring back at most of us from the mirror. The best way to understand the dangers of digital devices and smart technologies is to look at how their creators treat them when it comes to their own children. They do not allow their children anywhere near them—why? Perhaps because they know what their true purpose is, their inescapable power and their danger, especially to young, developing brains.

According to an article in the New York Times, “Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said earlier this year that he would not let his nephew join social networks. Bill Gates banned cellphones until his children were teenagers, and Melinda Gates wrote that she wished they had waited even longer. Steve Jobs would not let his young children near iPads.”

Another article in the NYT by the same author reports “Now, as Silicon Valley’s parents increasingly panic over the impact screens have on their children and move toward screen-free lifestyles, worries over a new digital divide are rising. It could happen that the children of poorer and middle-class parents will be raised by screens, while the children of Silicon Valley’s elite will be going back to wooden toys and the luxury of human interaction.”

The article goes on to quote a pediatrician and mother, who worries “What happens to my daughter if she can’t communicate over dinner—how is she going to find a spouse? How is she going to interview for a job?”

As parents, we have a responsibility to raise our children in a way that provides them with the maximum potential for success in life. We also have a duty to protect our children from dangers to their physical and mental well-being. This includes preventing digital retardation. We must eradicate the digital scourge from our children’s lives by treating it the same as we would any other dangerous and addictive drug…zero tolerance! We are our children’s first and best defense against digital retardation. That is, if we haven’t already succumbed to it ourselves.

Stand Together and Rethink Technology (SMART)