Busted! After reading this article from Charisma Magazine, I’ve decided to do better. Read on…
Is Your Family #Hooked on Digital Media?
- Greg Jantz, Ph.D.
How to prevent the allure of digital media from overtaking you or your loved ones
I admit it: I love technology. It’s the air I breathe. I tweet. I post to Facebook (you can find me there often—but not right now; keep reading!). I keep my Android smartphone with me at all times and live on my “big” computer for hours every day. I have multiple monitors. I have multiple email accounts, which all forward to one another to ensure I always get my messages, which are also synched to my phone. I own a Kindle. I own an iPad.
So—I get it. I understand the pull, the excitement, the fun of the digital forms of technology. And I am a true believer in harnessing their positives.
But I’m also a counselor and an addiction specialist, and some of what I see in digital media is deeply alarming. Kids age 8 through 18 spend almost 7-1/2 hours every day awash in media, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study. Factoring in their ability to multitask (listening to music while browsing Facebook, for example), their media exposure rises to almost 11 hours a day—every day. Teens spend as much time (or more) with their media as parents do at work. Add in school and sleep, and it’s amazing how little time is left for a family to be a family.
This technology is powerful stuff. It’s easy to get hooked on it. And that’s exactly why, if you aren’t careful, you’ll find out that what you start out controlling has a way in the end of controlling you.
Since I know this to be true, I can’t overlook technology’s pull in my own life, nor can I overlook it in my kids’ lives. As a parent, I need to be aware of the influence I have on my kids through my own use of technology. What am I saying to them about what I consider important, valuable, and worth my time and effort? When I give my kids technology to use for one purpose, how can I prevent it being used for something completely different, something I can’t approve of?
Unless a parent wants to become surgically attached to their teenager, it’s very difficult to know—let alone control—what and whom their kids have access to. They have the power to connect in a multitude of ways, all from the comfort of your home.
The Parent Trap
You might think teens are leading this technology charge. They aren’t. Parents are.
“It is not kids who have brought the widespread use of technology into the home; it is us [the parents],” concludes a 2011 Barna Group study titled The Family and Technology Report. Parents in the study used their cellphones even more regularly than their kids did. They were also more apt to use a desktop computer and equally apt to use a laptop or notebook.
Parents, we are the ones who bring all these devices and technology into the lives of our families—and then decry the resulting lack of relationship we have with one another. It’s no wonder our kids consider us hypocrites.
We tell them to get off Facebook, but we spend hours at night handling email. We set rules about texting at the dinner table, but we leave the TV on during the meal. We track and limit the time they spend on the computer, but we leave the television running even when no one is watching it.
When I grew up, parents held the keys to access—literally. Before I was street legal, if I wanted to see my friends, a parent had to drive me. And there were all sorts of conditions for when I could see them.
Access to my friends was limited, and I could have it only when I’d fulfilled duties like homework and household chores. I couldn’t even talk on the phone for long because there was just one line.
Now we have the oh-so-common cellphone, and parents no longer have such tight control over access to friends. Some 72 percent of teenagers have a cellphone, according to a study on teens and mobile phones by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. But teens do a lot more with their phones than just talk. The study found that: