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tv   2020  ABC  June 10, 2017 2:30am-3:31am PDT

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and now abc's 20/20. how far would you go to get families have reached the point families have reached the point of no return. their loved ones, lost for hours on social media and video screens. you've used the term digital heroin. is it that bad? is this your life? could it be? just ask them. a husband gaming all night. >> i was going to bed as a newlywed, and he was staying up and playing video games. >> a teenage daughter glued to her cell phone.
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>> a knock down fight to get that out. >> i was up all night sending pictures. >> secret sexting. with your mom and dad upstairs, thinking you're safe. now they're letting "20/20" into their every day and every night lives. now, revealing the secrets in video diaries. >> it's hard not to resent chris, enjoying himself while i'm pulling my hair out. >> what can get them to stop? and what are the warning signs for your family? >> your mother is afraid. >> tonight, while our "20/20" cameras are rolling, an intervention. >> where is my stuff? >> and signs of withdrawal. >> tight in the chest. >> now it's rehab and devices. >> when i have the phone, at least i feel like i'm fitting in. >> from heartbreak to hope. logged in to unplugged. can they make it? >> love you. >> good evening.
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i'm elizabeth vargas. >> and i'm david muir. we all want to stay connected, but tonight, the jaw-dropping video of people who can't put their devices down. your friends, your family, your neighbors. perhaps even yourself. tonight, you'll also see the mris, what this could be doing to your brain. >> we spent a year on the road meeting people who were held hostage to their devices. getting them to open up. about themselves and the secrets in their homes. we're not using their last names, because they could be any of us. but the good news is, they got unhooked, and you can, too. >> reporter: walk down any street, any mall, any hallway, everyone is bowing to their screen. our devices are beeping, buzzing, begging us to swipe, like, love, tweet, retweet, send, reply, forward. >> facetime, snapchat, instagram. twitter, tumbler, kik.
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>> reporter: this is brooke, a california teenager. she's 15 now and a self-professed recovering cell phone and social media addict. how long was she on her phone each day? >> when she got home from school, at like 3:00, until she went to bed at 9:00. >> it was more. >> reporter: it was more. brooke says she would be up until 4:00 in the morning and later. >> the second a text went off, the second someone snapchats me or facetimes me, i always answered and i always waited and waited and waited for someone to reply. it was like my heart. i couldn't put it down. >> reporter: teenagers have always had this fear of missing out, but it's just mushroomed. it's nuclear. >> reporter: and brooke's selfies reveal a troubling progression, imitating bad behavior she was exposed to online with her phone. >> the more she started to change and act out, the more we started to really -- >> clamp down.
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>> clamp down. then that created anger. >> reporter: brooke was always two clicks ahead of her parents, jim and stephanie. >> i was constantly making different accounts. i had like six accounts on instagram. i had multiple snapchats. i changed the usernames, the passwords. i would block them. >> we took her phone. she'd go and buy someone else's phone. >> reporter: how were you so smart about all this? >> honestly, i don't know. it was like they took my phone and i just panicked. >> reporter: anytime her parents took away the phone, brooke would go ballistic. >> it was like a knock down, drag-out fight practically to get that phone out of her hand. she would say that, "without my phone, i have nothing." >> there was no relationship. we were just a means to provide her with food and shelter and money. >> reporter: and a phone. >> and a phone. >> reporter: a winter night in michigan. an ordinary house on an ordinary street. people just trying to get some sleep.
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but somebody's up late, trigger happy with that rat-a-tat keyboard on the computer playing first-person shooter video games. the boy in the bedroom is josh. he's 14 years old and his parents, al and christina, say he won't stop, can't stop, playing. what's a typical day in josh's life? >> sleeping in until 11:00, 12:00. then he would be on until 1:00, 2:00 in the morning. >> reporter: 12 hours. >> easily, he could. >> reporter: they say josh's obsession began in 8th grade, when he built himself a gaming computer and installed it in his room. >> get out! >> reporter: you think that was the turning point? >> oh, definitely, yeah. that was much more exciting to be on and much more addictive. >> reporter: josh says he's playing up to 60 hours a week. >> josh has been in his room
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since 4:00, nearly five hours gaming. >> reporter: why didn't you just take the computer away? i don't understand. >> because when we did take it away, there was a lot of problems in our house with his behavior. >> reporter: they confiscate the computer, shut down the wi-fi, even remove the router and lock it in their car. josh responds by throwing things and punching the walls. >> there was like a shutdown in communication. >> reporter: was it just the constant fighting with him about this? >> it was very emotional. >> reporter: al is not only afraid of what josh might do, he's afraid of what he might do. >> if it got further, it could have been a problem. it could have been physical and i didn't want that. >> reporter: so he was trying to physically stop you? >> yeah. >> reporter: he throws up his hands and leaves christina to handle the conflict on her own. and, sometimes, it does get physical. >> they exaggerate. like, my mom thinks that i hit her because she takes away my games.
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i don't do that. she calls it hitting because i, like, swat her hand away. >> it was just a lot of anger. lots of anger. >> emotional outbursts. >> reporter: that sounds completely out of control. >> yeah, it was. >> josh, you need to get off. >> hey. stop. >> reporter: midnight, 1:00 a.m, 2:00 in the morning. >> why are you stalking me? >> reporter: all these late night fights leave christina exhausted. >> you know, it's after 3:00 and i told you to get off at 1:00. >> stop! if you want to make changes, it's hard work. >> reporter: they turn to kevin roberts. he works with kids having trouble with too much screen time. >> it doesn't have to be just gaming. it could be texting. it could be the smartphone. >> reporter: roberts is the author of "cyber junkie," and "get off that game, now." >> your mother is afraid to get rid of the video game system and
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the computer because she's afraid of how you'll react. >> it's not my fault that she's scared of me. >> reporter: in ohio, we meet maria, 40 years old, attorney, mother of four. >> good job! >> reporter: she's not a single mother. it just seems that way. she has a husband, chris, age 44. but you can't meet him right now because although chris and maria have built a life together, careers, a nice home, beautiful children -- on any given evening, chris is down in the basement past the pink castle and buckets of children's toys. you may think he's too old for this, but the average video gamer is 35. >> someone shot me in the face. >> reporter: and this one has been taken prisoner by a pastime. >> you're done. cheese. >> chris was still playing video games, so we ended up coming to the park and having some fun here.
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>> reporter: how many hours a day does he spend playing games? >> he'll take a whole saturday and go into the evening when -- when he -- from the time he wakes up until -- >> reporter: the time he goes to bed? >> the time he goes to bed, yeah. >> reporter: so, 18 hours? >> possibly. it's 2:00 a.m. and i just checked in on chris, and he's still playing video games. >> reporter: ever since they got married, more than a decade ago, maria says chris is often a no-show for much of their life. >> happy thanksgiving. i'm headed up to our family football game. chris opted not to play with us. he is going to be playing video games instead. >> reporter: why would you stay with -- >> i know. >> reporter: -- a partner who is that disengaged? >> i don't know. i think that i really felt like this was a in sickness and in health moment. and, yes, it's hard, but i was committed to him. and i still am committed to him. so we have a house full of people, and he is in the basement playing video games. >> oh, god. come here, bro. come here. >> reporter: missing life's sweet moments. >> so zaley's trying
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blackberries for the first time. >> reporter: maria is there to see their toddler's first taste of a blackberry. and so are you. >> what do you think, zayley? do you like them? do you love them? >> reporter: the only one not there, is her father, chris. part of your heart must break for what he's missing? >> it does. >> reporter: they're living in a split screen. chris gets online. maria gets the kids in line. playtime for him. bath time for her. downstairs, play. upstairs, pray. >> i am going to go to bed because i'm super tired. this is how we function and this is how we do it. >> reporter: still ahead -- risky behavior, right under her parents' roof. >> we were blown out of the water when the police showed up at our house. >> reporter: and inside the mind of an extreme gamer. can the screen change your brain? you've looked at this and thought, this was a kid in trouble. stay with us.
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we went to a park and we handed people 10- and 20-pound sandbags. here's what happened. i just truly feel winded. i can feel it in my back. i didn't realize what extra weight on the body feels like. oh, i definitely felt it in my knees. you can easily put 2, 3, 4, or 5 pounds on in a year. woman: 10 pounds makes a big difference. no one liked carrying the extra weight, but people do it all the time. wouldn't you like to drop that weight and stop picking up more? man: i think this is a lifechanger for me.
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reporter: in ohio, it's time to meet the man in the basement -- maria's husband chris. >> dad. >> hi.
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>> reporter: chris comes home from work. it may or may not surprise you to know his job is i.t., servicing computers. when he walks in the door, it looks like any other normal family. >> okay. go ahead and work on your problem now, all right? >> reporter: but, his wife maria says, just watch. doting dad is itching to disappear. >> i think i'm going to head down. i keep returning to this machine gun guy. i've played just terribly, dude. >> reporter: chris shows us his collection of obsessions. no fewer than 158 carefully organized games. this is where you game, huh? >> yeah, matter of fact. >> reporter: it's a nice setup. he tries to show me what all the excitement is about. >> i put you down quickly. you can remove yourself for an hour. >> reporter: or more. >> or more.
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>> reporter: and watch what happens when maria comes down stairs to check on chris before she goes to bed. >> i amount goi going to head t >> good night. >> good night. >> reporter: do you think you're addicted to those games? >> i'd say addiction is there. >> reporter: chris says he's considering cutting back. but quit for good? never. >> i can't stop forever, that just seems like -- >> reporter: even though you know that it hurts your wife and your children? >> every next thing i say sounds more and more like the scared addict. >> reporter: in california, brooke's parents say her phone and social media fixation opened a portal into a dark place. her risky behavior escalated when she was just 11 and 12. >> just hanging out with the wrong crowd, drugs, sex in
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middle school. >> reporter: with that phone always in her hand, her parents wondered whether anyplace was safe. >> okay, she's home, she's safe. but it was a complete false sense of security because she's up there in her room with her phone on the internet. >> reporter: and as her parents later discover, sexting with strange men. >> i was up all night, sending pictures. >> reporter: of yourself? >> mm-hmm. >> reporter: to strangers? >> yeah. when i did it and i got those compliments, i got that attention, and it just made me feel really good. >> reporter: it's unnerving to listen to you tell me about how you fell into this world of secret sexting upstairs. >> yeah. >> reporter: you weren't safe. >> not at all. >> reporter: it's not just the phone and the internet. brooke has a.d.d. and attachment
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issues. >> when you take a phone and social media and you put it in the hands of a teenager, and then throw in some mental illness, she just becomes very vulnerable. >> reporter: but her parents don't realize just how vulnerable, until they get a knock on the door. >> we were blown out of the water when the police showed up at our house. >> oh, my gosh. >> reporter: officers revealed what their little girl had been doing online. the men, the nude photos, all of it. you know people watching this are going to say, "where were you?" >> yeah. >> it was shocking. >> it was. >> i guess i thought of her just as a regular, everyday little girl growing up. >> reporter: word spread on social media about brooke's mistakes. bullied and shamed, she tried to numb the pain with drugs and alcohol. i think you used the word broken.
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>> yeah. >> reporter: do you have any idea how you got that way? >> i think i just got to a point where i kept getting hurt, i kept doing things that i knew didn't make me happy. >> reporter: and then an act of desperation. brooke wrote a note on her phone, and somehow, by the grace of god, her parents say, it accidentally popped up on their shared icloud account. >> i said, "what's that?" i opened it up and it was a suicide note. >> reporter: a suicide note? what did you think reading that? >> i couldn't believe it. it was scary. >> i just got to a point where i just didn't even know why i was here and why i was still trying. >> reporter: you mean why you were on earth? >> yeah, it just didn't make sense to me anymore. >> reporter: they had brooke committed to a hospital that night. >> that was it. that's when we knew -- >> that was it. >> we got to do something
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drastic. >> reporter: the first thing the attendants took from her was her phone. >> brookie wanted to like fight the nurse for it. >> i was like, "don't touch me." i was pissed. >> the despise in her face for us. >> betrayal. she was so -- but there was no other way. >> i just kept thinking, "you're not going to die on my watch." >> reporter: in michigan, josh begins skipping school. >> he told me a couple times, "i'm going to be a gamer, and i can make a lot of money, mom. believe me, i've got it all figured out." i was like, "this is not good." >> reporter: and then, no more school. >> there's some things going on with his adhd and then there was some underlying depression. so it wasn't just all the gaming. >> reporter: al and christina are wondering what's going on inside josh's head. if only there were a way to peek
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inside that adolescent brain. well, it turns out, there is. josh is getting a functional mri as part of a new study by dr. david rosenberg. his theory, yet to be proven -- excessive gaming changes brain activity. these triplets are in the study too. >> turn it off, now. >> stop, mom. >> you're still playing. >> i said i'm going to watch this, and then play outside with josh. >> reporter: that's noah. you can see why his mom says gaming has more of a hold on him than on his brother and sister. these are the triplets' brain scans. two are typical, but noah is not. dr. rosenberg highlighted areas in red he says represent brain activity involving memory, attention and decision making. noah's is almost completely gray. but now look at noah's brain after three weeks unplugged at
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summer camp. he's gone from being barely lit up to being highly. >> he's highly lit up, yes. >> reporter: now for josh's results. >> there should be much nor -- more activity. >> reporter: you looked at this and thought, "this is a kid in trouble"? >> this is a kid in trouble. >> reporter: still ahead, what's it going to take to throw josh off his game? how about 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness with no temptation? stay with us.
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>> reporter: early morning in michigan, a scene right out of josh's video game. a couple of guy comes to the house and gently but firmly hustle him away in the darkness. he knew it was coming. >> it's just kind of stupid. i just play video games and i have to go to a rehab for it. >> reporter: but when the day came, he wasn't ready. >> josh was really getting emotional. he goes, "i don't want to go, i'm scared. i want to see my mom." >> reporter: josh is flown to
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salt lake city, and then driven hours away into the utah wilderness and a program called unplugged at outback therapeutic expeditions. he and a group of other boys will camp for weeks in this rugged terrain. there is no running water, no electricity, no screens. the only thing that glows in the dark, a campfire and the moon. in ohio, no one is getting on a plane, but chris and maria are hoping for a game-changer. we arrange for a house call. addiction specialist nick kardaras. so what are you going to say to him? >> well, so my whole purpose is to try to find out where he's at on this whole ownership of his addiction. does he acknowledge that there's a problem? >> reporter: inside, before chris decides if he's ready to unplug from his gaming habit, an emotional hug from his oldest children. a reminder of how much they need him. >> don't be sad. >> reporter: and then a big
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test. he wants chris to get the video games out of the house. >> we could box them up and they could be stored somewhere. >> reporter: chris is at a crossroads. >> so are you willing to take this opportunity? not next month. >> yeah, i'll -- i'll -- i'll step up. i'll try it. >> reporter: then it's time to pack up chris' obsession. >> all right. here we go. >> okay. this is slightly painf. >> reporter: the buckets for children's toys come in handy. >> i want to go back to when we knew each other better. >> yeah, that's really nice. >> reporter: what's wrong with these so-called cyber junkies? is their extreme behavior a disorder, or just a symptom of something else? that is a subject of heated debate among scientists. is there really such a thing as digital addiction?
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>> i think the answer is unequivocally yes. it impacts a developing brain in exactly the same way substance addiction can. >> reporter: kardaras has written a book called "glow kids." you have used the term digital heroin. really? digital heroin? is it that bad? >> maybe there is some shock value to that. maybe i am trying to shock some parents awake to say this is a potentially addictive device. be careful. >> reporter: the american psychiatric association's diagnostic manual includes internet gaming disorder as a condition requiring further study. dr. david rosenberg is doing just that. >> internet addiction clearly exists. but there's always, always an underlying cause or causes. >> reporter: the entertainment software association says in a statement, science, research, and common sense all prove that video games are not addictive.
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but digital addiction is taken seriously in some parts of the world. asia has hundreds of treatment centers. the world health organization is poised to officially classify gaming disorder in its disease manual. are we late to the party on this? >> yes. i think we are late to the party in this. china has had internet addiction disorder as a diagnosable disorder for a few years now. >> we're not going to be able to help people change their behavior through shame and willpower. >> reporter: software developer gabe zichermann says apps and games are designed to enthrall. he would know. he says he used to earn a living making them that way. >> my work in gamification in particular has been used to make just about everything that people use today more addictive and engaging. >> reporter: how do they do that, exactly? >> every time you challenge yourself to something and then you achieve that thing, your brain secretes a little bit of dopamine. >> reporter: zichermann says he and developers like him designed games and apps to purposely activate those jolts of
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dopamine. but he has since had a change of heart, and career. he has created an app that helps users break the cycle of compulsion. >> and i'm using the exact techniques that i've used for the last decade to make things more addicting, to help people counteract the addictions they face. >> it all sound so devious, i kind of picture them twirling their mustaches as we're kind of, we're talking about this. >> reporter: psychology professors chris ferguson and patrick markey study video gaming and they say it's getting a bad rap. are all these families just making this up? >> no, we're not accusing them of lying. >> reporter: so if they're not addicted to their video games, you're telling me that this is a moral panic. >> the question is, is it the video games themselves that's causing the problem or is it something underlying, that's what we can't speak to, we don't know what is going on in these families. >> reporter: i don't think parents realize that those games have been manipulated. >> well, i mean, i think manipulated -- all we're talking about it is that they're trying to make them more fun, essentially. >> reporter: still ahead, what
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happens when the fun and games, and devices, are gone? >> it's making me feel some feels right now. [ crying ]
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once again, elizabeth vargas.
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>> reporter: soaring through thin air, these majestic utah mountains offer a breathtaking vista. but down in the desert dirt, 14-year-old josh is still trying to catch his breath. i would think that initially in the first few days, it's just about learning life skills. >> reporter: mckay deveraux is executive director of outback therapeutic expeditions. >> it's actually the first several weeks in which they're learning to take care of themselves. >> reporter: josh is enrolled in a treatment program called unplugged. the organization waived his fee, which can run tens of thousands of dollars, hoping to raise awareness of this problem. if the boys want to survive, they will have to change their lives. what does that have to do with gaming or anxiety or depression? >> being able to kind of reset everything neurologically and mentally by taking them away from all the distractions of their typical life. >> reporter: after josh has been in the wilderness for more than seven weeks, we go for a visit.
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>> i'm elizabeth. it's very nice to meet you. all right, so show me around your camp. >> reporter: josh shows me how he and the other boys live. carrying their few belongings in a homemade backpack, building shelter, preparing meals, nothing gourmet. out here peanut butter is a delicacy. josh wanted to show off his new fire making skills. you do it right here? >> yeah. >> reporter: with disappointing results. >> pretty close. we'll practice again later. okay? >> reporter: how is that going to help you in life, do you think? >> i can use it as an example as like my anxiety. at first it was super hard for me to hike. >> reporter: learning to overcome physical challenges here is a lesson josh can take with him and apply to life challenges back home. so you're learning to push yourself? >> yeah. my issues is that i had gaming
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addiction because i had anxiety and depression, and basically i'd just use it as like escaping from it. >> reporter: are you worried at all about going home and falling back into your old habits? >> yeah, like, i've had dreams at night where i'm just playing video games and then it's just kind of scary when i wake up. >> reporter: there's another milestone for josh here on the mountain. he's turning 15. a birthday to remember. unlike josh, chris is facing his gaming problem right at home in ohio, but there are still mountains to climb. >> i don't make it down here much. it's just kind of a place for the kids to play right now. >> reporter: visiting his former gaming closet triggers intense emotions. >> i freaked out about it. i remember kicking my couch. >> reporter: watch chris' reaction to those empty shelves. >> the games were here and surprise, the games were gone. i was just tight in the chest. it's a little tough to think
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about even now. i mean it's making me feel some feels right now. >> reporter: he documents his struggle to stay out of the game. day by day. >> day two of this 90-day detox, boredom, monotony, agitation. >> reporter: week by week. >> it is amazing. this probably is the first week game free in years and years. >> reporter: maria assumed without games, chris would spend more time with her and the kids, but at least for now, he has intensive therapy. it's taking up four hours nearly every day. >> i was kind of hoping that he would at least attempt to, when he's with us, be with us. but i wonder if right now it's just a little too much for him with the anxiety level. >> reporter: and although the games are locked away in a storage facility, he admits they still seem to have a hold on
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him. >> it's gray and cold and rainy and wouldn't it be nice just to head downstairs and just play some freaking video games. >> reporter: it's been nearly 20 months since brooke first arrived at her treatment facility. >> we want to start off with some pretty tight limits and structure around your phone use. >> reporter: periodically, brooke is allowed to go home for visits. the trips are a test. brooke's phone, normally locked away, is handed over. >> this is the first time she's had it since she got to go home last time. >> brooke, how long has it been? >> i'd say probably a month and a half. >> how does it feel to have it back? >> it's really exciting, because i miss talking to my friends, and so it's exciting that i get to do that again. >> reporter: brooke's mom, stephanie, is going to the airport to meet her. >> i'm always hopeful, i'm hopeful every time that she comes home.
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but i'm also realistic, and i know that it's, it's a real struggle for her. >> okay, so brooke looks like she has landed. >> oh. i didn't even see, i thought she was part of the flight crew. >> so good to see you. >> reporter: there's been a loss of trust in this family and brooke's parents take precautions. out of sight, out of mind. >> we have a drawer here that we just keep some of our old devices in. we kind of keep these hidden while she's here. remember these? >> oh, yeah. >> reporter: most of the visit is going smoothly. paging through old memories of life before the crisis. watching home movies. but at night, when brooke has to hand over the phone, it's hard. her painful past comes rushing back. she's feeling like the only teenager in the world who can't handle a phone.
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>> i guess i just feel really left out and when i have the phone, i can at least talk to people and feel like i'm fitting in still. it just makes me feel like i'm missing out. >> reporter: even with all the improvement and all the progress you've seen her make, it isn't all better. >> no, it's not. >> no. >> reporter: that's still an issue, what social media does and allows kids to access and be vulnerable to. >> yeah. it's a lifelong journey for her. >> there will still be highs and lows. >> reporter: still ahead, a reunion in the mountains. will sparks fly this time? >> are you okay, dad? >> should we cut the camera? >> reporter: stay with us.
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[female narrator] foods rich in folic acid like white bread and leafy greens can help prevent some birth defects before you even know you're pregnant. welcome to salt lake city, ladies and gentlemen. it's 10:13 a.m. local time. >> reporter: al and christine travel from michigan to utah, and then make the long journey over rough roads, tracing their son josh's path into the western desert. >> i can't imagine what josh was thinking the day he came out here. >> yeah. >> reporter: josh has been unplugged for more than seven weeks. they can't wait to see him, but first they have to find him. >> josh is somewhere out here, and you guys are going to signal for josh using this. >> okay.
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>> reporter: wyatt, a field staffer, gives them a wooden device called a bull roar used in ancient rituals to send signals over long distances. they stop and listen for a response from josh. but nothing. off in another part of the desert -- >> oh, come on. >> reporter: josh is having trouble. >> swear to god it was working. >> i know. it was working yesterday. >> reporter: it's not a bad metaphor for the family's communication problems. when josh would shut himself away in his bedroom, gaming all night. >> it's 3:00 in the morning. it's time to get off now. >> reporter: christina takes a turn. and at last, josh responds. >> was that it? >> that was it.
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>> that was it. that was it right there. >> okay. >> reporter: moments later, after the longest and most difficult separation of his young life, 54 days apart. >> there he is. >> is he there? oh, there he is. >> hey josh, how are you? >> good. >> good to see you. oh, my god, you're getting bigger. >> hey, josh. you doing all right? >> yeah. >> look at this! so this is your camp right here? >> reporter: as he did during my visit, josh tries to show his mom and dad how he can make fire without a match, and this time the glowing ember in his hands comes to life. >> there we go. >> that was awesome. >> oh.
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>> yes. >> reporter: remember the boy who could barely put a few words together? this is a different josh. >> like at home i didn't really notice that video games were destroying me mentally, and how it's just as bad as substances, like mentally. i just didn't notice that. i didn't like care at all. i just wanted to play video games, that was it. that's all i really cared about. i mean, i literally skipped school for a month just to play video games. here, let me. >> reporter: josh paints his parents' faces. a figure in red for his mom standing between light and darkness. >> even though like, you were dealing with my gaming addiction, you could always like, seek the light. you were always trying to find help for me. >> oh, that's cool. yeah, that's really cool. >> reporter: al is moved by his son's recognition of their struggle to free him from his
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gaming obsession. >> are you okay, dad? >> could you cut the camera? >> it's okay. when you're ready, josh. >> reporter: for his dad, two figures, representing before and after. >> you've changed a lot. i can see that you're trying to change. >> okay. thank you. >> all right. love you. >> reporter: and then it's time for good-byes, a dusty hug, and al and christina are heading back to michigan. >> see you guys in a couple weeks. >> reporter: josh will remain behind for now. he has more work to do in the desert. still ahead, what difference will ten weeks in the wilderness make? >> we're going to get started then. >> reporter: josh comes home and gets another brain scan.
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>> once again elizabeth vargas. hi, mom! >> reporter: in ohio, it's time for a change in latitude. chris and maria are taking the kids for an adventure. >> where are we going? >> we're going to puerto rico. >> where are we going, z.z.? >> we're going to puerto rico. >> reporter: they visit puerto rico every spring, but this year seems different. >> going to the pool, going to the beach with my kids and my family and it's good. it's good to get away. it'd be easy if i could be on vacation all the time. >> reporter: weeks later, we drop in on chris and maria on a sunday morning. with 53 game-free days behind him, chris is out of the
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basement and killing it in the kitchen. one morning several days earlier, maria recorded another video diary. it's her birthday. >> i really don't have big expectations for my birthday but imagine the surprise when i came downstairs to this. he got me a gift and beautiful flowers and a really nice card. i'm really feeling a lot of hope and excitement, and just some happiness. >> your time at outback has come to an end but the journey continues. >> reporter: after ten weeks unplugged in the wilderness, it's time for josh to go home. >> i guess i get to sleep in a warm bed instead of on the ground in a sleeping bag. >> reporter: al and christina are getting ready. patching and painting josh's room. removing that custom built gaming computer. >> ladies and gentlemen, it's our pleasure to welcome you to detroit. >> oh, boy.
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>> there he is. he's here. >> all right. welcome home. let me give you a real hug. oh, you still smell like sage. >> reporter: home again, josh has lost weight. he feels taller. and with a new haircut, he's a different boy. >> now you've got to go back to reality. >> yeah. >> reporter: those aren't the only changes. a couple days later, josh has a follow-up brain scan. dr. david rosenberg shows us the results. wow. >> what you can see here is, yeah, this is an oh, wow effect. same boy. >> reporter: before treatment, after treatment. what is that telling you? >> he was completely shut down. when we talked with him here, he was exuberant. a different child. >> reporter: in california, brooke and her family work together on a sign of renewal, a fresh coat of paint. >> i'm wanting to start over and make my room more positive. i think if i can take my story
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and make other people think about things before they do it and help them to make a better life. i think that's really important to me. >> reporter: and then it's time for brooke to return to rehab. she's done well on this trial visit, but there's more to treating those underlying issues than simply taking her phone away. >> yeah, this is the worst day of the whole trip. every time. sad that she's leaving, but super happy that, you know, she'll be back soon. >> reporter: it may be a sign of her recovery that saying good-bye to her mom is harder than ever. do you feel like you have your daughter back? >> no. i have the new and improved brookie. i do. and she's worked so hard. ♪
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>> happily on the road to recovery. to prevent it from happening in your family, experts have given us these tips. >> no phone before the age of ten, or at the dining room table. media free time together. and media-free locations like bedrooms at home. >> imagine us all talking again. >> that's right. >> and it's all on abcnews.com for you. thanks for watching tonight. i'm david muir. >> and i'm elizabeth vargas. and i want to thank those families for sharing their stories. from all of us at "20/20" and abc news, good night.
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