We live in a culture where addictions are widespread.
Not a day goes by without us hearing about and being reminded of lives ravaged and destroyed by addictions to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sex, and pornography.
In recent years, the growing catalog of addictions includes things like self-mutilation, tattoos, body-piercing, food, shopping, and fame. Now, the advent and rapid expansion of technology is forcing us to look more seriously at addiction to video gaming, the Internet, text-messaging, social networking, and other developing media platforms.
Because both we and our kids are immersed in life on the emerging Digital Frontier, we must work to understand, prevent, and respond to the dangers associated with electronic addiction.
Addiction is best understood as the dependency and habitual use of something that we eventually believe we can’t live without. An addiction is characterized by an uncontrollable and compulsive use of that thing which eventually (and sometimes very quickly!) has negative health and/or social consequences. My friends Rich Van Pelt and Jim Hancock describe addiction as “a compulsive craving, seeking, and using . . . no matter what” (The Youth Worker’s Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis, 203). Based on these criteria, many of us know and/or are related to persons (perhaps even ourselves!) who are addicted to technology.
Researchers and counselors are currently debating whether or not there is such a thing as “Internet Addiction.” Many are campaigning to have “Internet Addiction” included as a diagnosable disorder in the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
As parents called by God to nurture our children through childhood and into a spiritually healthy adulthood, we have the responsibility to be keenly aware of and sensitive to electronic addiction in all of its forms. We must understand its threat, presence, and impact. Consequently, we must be diligent in preparing both ourselves and our children to understand, process, and live with electronic media in ways that bring honor and glory to God.
While there are many signs that point to electronic addiction, you can be sure there’s a problem if you or your child can’t stop using technology. The addict feels uneasy, incomplete, or agitated when digital activity is discontinued or reduced. Addiction occurs when the activity becomes the most important activity in life, dominating one’s thinking, feelings and behavior.
If you think your child is struggling with electronic addiction, here are four initial steps to take to deal with the problem.
- Confront the problem. Don’t ignore it.
- Set limits on technology time and remove the temptations.
- Monitor their electronic use.
- Get help by enlisting the services of a qualified Christian counselor who has been trained to deal with the underlying spiritual, relational, and emotional issues that have caused and/or resulted from electronic addiction.
Take a peek at the Digital Kids Initiative for more information and tools to help you lead the kids you and know into living safely, wisely and to the glory of God on the emerging digital frontier. Or check out all the free youth culture resources and articles from Walt Mueller on his website: CPYU.org
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