Addicted to Technology?
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
Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and has been working with young people and families for over 35 years. As a result of his work with CPYU, Walt has become an internationally-recognized speaker and author on contemporary youth culture. He has written extensively on youth culture and family issues and is the author of the following books: 99 Thoughts for Parents of Teenagers (Group Publishing, 2010); The Space Between: A Parent's Guide to Teenage Development (Zondervan, 2009); Opie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: Where Faith, Family, and Culture Collide (Standard Publishing, August 2007); Youth Culture 101 (Zondervan, June 2007); I Want to Talk With my Teen About Movies, Music & More (Standard Publishing, September 2006); Engaging The Soul of Youth Culture: Bridging Teen Worldviews To Christian Truth (InterVarsity Press, February 2006); and the critically acclaimed Gold Medallion Award winner, Understanding Today’s Youth Culture (Tyndale House, 1994). He is also a regular contributor to numerous journals and magazines. A graduate of Geneva College (B.A.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Walt earned his doctorate at Gordon-Conwell in “Ministry to Postmodern Generations.” Walt has served in ministry with the Coalition for Christian Outreach and as a youth pastor in churches in Johnstown, PA and Philadelphia. Walt's wife Lisa has served behind the scenes since day one as CPYU’s secretary. A graduate of Geneva College who has a background in radio, Lisa’s voice can be heard on CPYU’s daily Youth Culture Today radio spot. Walt and Lisa live in Elizabethtown and have four children.