I’ve been “writing” snippets of this article in my head for a while and saying to myself “today is the day I come clean” but then, panic takes over! The reason is not far-fetched. How could I possibly admit… that I… think that I… might be slightly addicted to technology!!!! In fairness to me though, addiction in a digital age isn’t easy to recognize. Perhaps because we have cause to be “plugged in” for various legitimate reasons…work, school, maintaining family ties & friendships especially with those that live in different locations.
In case you’re still wondering wether you or your loved one might be a digital addict, I just thought to mention, that according to an article I read on www.huffingtonpost.com, digital age addiction falls into five types – device addiction (i.e., computer game addiction), information overload (i.e., web surfing addiction), net compulsions (i.e., online gambling or online shopping addiction), cybersexual addiction (i.e., online pornography or online sex addiction), and cyber-relationship addiction (i.e., an addiction to online relationships).
One of the common warning signs that a person (young or old) may be a digital addict, is denying how much time is spent on devices, looking at screens, on social media and the internet. Another sign I find amusing & somewhat embarrassing is the phantom vibration syndrome or ringing (you know when you could almost swear that you felt/heard your phone vibrate or ring and it really isn’t). Milder forms of “technology related mental disorders” include FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out – that “thing” that tells you to check your phone at 2 am when you get up for a bathroom break. “God forbid that something world-changing has happened and you don’t immediately know about it”!) There are many other symptoms and you can check them out on www.psychguides.com.
Technology is great, the benefits are immense and I honestly can’t imagine life without it. Truth is tech is not going anywhere. With breakthrough innovations in the area of artificial intelligence (AI) and digitalization taking over the way our children learn, play, socialize and entertain themselves, managing the use of technology in families is one of the biggest challenges of parenting in this digital age. Parents are seeking answers from “when should I give my child a phone?”; “how much screen time is too much?”; Can social media damage my child’s esteem and undermine the values I’ve inculcated in my children?
The answer to all these questions and preventing addiction or other tech-related mental disorders lies more in maintaining balance, teaching them about priorities’ showing them how to be responsible users of technology and empowering them with core digital citizenship skills, rather than blocking, banning or deny that there is actually cause for concern.
A 2012 survey by Common Sense Media found that “[teens] are attached to their devices than to their social networking sites: 41% of cell phone owners say they would describe themselves as “addicted” to their phones, and 32% of iPad owners say the same. 20% of social networkers say they are “addicted” to their sites.” Social networking already accounts for 28 percent of all media time spent online. 15 and 19-year-olds spend at least 3 hours per day on average using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 18 percent of social media users check Facebook every four hours, and 28 percent of iPhone users check their Twitter feed before they get out of bed in the morning.
This is definitely not a discussion that can be concluded in one post as there are so many sides to it. But in order not to leave us hanging till the next post on this topic, here are a few tips to help us prevent or break digital addictions/disorders in our lives, that of our children and loved ones:
1. Model good behavior – We’ve repeatedly heard that our children learn more from us by observation as against our “lectures”.
2. Screen Time Management – Limit the amount of time your children spend looking at screens (computer, tablet, smartphone, television) for leisure & entertainment. Be clear about what the allowable time is e.g. X minutes during weekdays and Y hours at the weekend.
3. School assignments take priority. Insist that they complete all assignments before allowing them to play with/watch a screen. Obviously, this does not apply to situations where the computer is required to do the assignment.
4. Encourage them to take up other activities – playing with friends, riding bikes, swimming, creating music, playing board games, reading etc.
5. Encourage “tech fast days” – Agree as a family to embark on a fast from technology for a day. Decide on fun activities you can do together to foster bonding.
We would love to hear from you. Please share any success tips on managing the use of technology in families and handling tech related addictions or disorders. Post your comments here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.