by Rowland Adeniyi | To use technology and social media without worshiping it, we must exercise self-control which can be achieved by everyone with discipline (image: iStock).
Technology and social media allow us to stay in touch with friends, explore the world around us, learn new things, and order anything online. It is a powerful tool to make our life easier and better while on the other hand, it can lead to isolation, neglect of our responsibilities, or disrespect of people around us. To use technology and social media without worshiping it, we must exercise self-control which can be achieved by everyone with discipline. This includes turning off the function where new posts pop up as alerts on your devices, cultivating healthier activities to keep yourself busy, turning off your connected devices, or uninstalling social media Apps from your smartphone and using the one on your personal computer. If you’re beyond exercising self-control, you can find treatment centers here for internet addiction in your area or call the Helpline at 888-465-7473 or 877-762-4484 or 866-208-4949. There is no need to be in self-denial, many of us are not using technology and social media appropriately. It is very difficult to know the cause of the problems; technology providers, educators, school curriculum, or the federal agency policies about technology. There is plenty of blame to go around even as far as parents themselves are concerned. Although there is no scientific standard for measuring if you’re worshiping technology and social media, some reports suggest it may affect as many as 38 percent of the general population. The reason for discrepancies is that it is researched differently among scientists including the mental health professionals. The vast majority of Americans, about 95% now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 77%, up from just 35% in PEW Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011. THE GOOD AND THE BAD When used wisely, technology and social media have the potential to support the much-needed large scale change in education especially in the areas of math and science education. For this to happen though, educators need to be very creative in developing new and far more ambitious course work for a quite different future that technologies and social media make possible now. The most useful educational perspective of information technologies and social media is to see them primarily as tools that help students accomplish more. The tool role is of primary importance because it extends the capacity of students to undertake investigations, to attack computational problems, to communicate, and to access information resources. On one hand, the potential positive effects of using technology and social media without worshiping it include enhanced cognitive development and school achievement, reduced barriers to social interaction, enhanced fine motor skills and visual processing and effective rehabilitation. On the other hand, the potential negative effects include threats to child safety, inappropriate content, exposure to violence, bullying, internet 'addiction', displacement of moderate or vigorous physical activity, exposure to junk food advertising, sleep displacement, vision problems, and musculoskeletal problems. All researchers agreed on one thing, the extended use of technology is damaging to anyone, especially in the early developmental years of adolescence. ARE YOU WORSHIPING TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIAL MEDIA? The troubling thing about using technology and social media without worshiping it is that a person is endlessly surrounded by technology. From the time one wakes up to the time one goes to bed, we are bombarded with technology and social media. Its use is endless. In this digital age, how then do you know if you’re worshiping technology and social media?
- I saw an elderly lady walking across the street one day in one of the high-tech cities along the US west coast with her eyes glued to her device screen and not even paying attention to the oncoming traffic until the driver slammed the brake and blew the horn and the lady literarily ran off the street. If a person is not able to physically stop checking their Facebook account, tweeting, blogging, e-mailing, or whatever, then they are worshiping technology and social media.
- Complex, strategy-based games like Starcraft can improve many cognitive skills, including working memory and reasoning. When playing a strategy game, the player must be flexible and quick to change tactics on the fly with limited resources and logistics when something unexpected suddenly happens, just like in the real world. Although this strategy game no doubt improves cognitive skills, doing it online in excess no doubt constitutes that we are worshiping technology and social media.
- Everyday we use our technology to buy practically everything online these days and that includes perishable goods like groceries delivery as well. There is no doubt about it; from researching our first home to ordering pizzas online, we are a technology savvy community when it comes to shopping. The problem comes when we keep buy unwanted goods every day and we end up as a compulsive online shopper.
- A virtue as Wikipedia described it is a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness. Having read a few books on the impact of technology and social media on humans, I can say conclusively we are consuming technology at an alarming rate and entertaining ourselves to illness. When our use of technology and social media clash with the development of our virtue, our relationships, work, or school then we are worshiping technology and social media.
USING TECHNOLOGY & SOCIAL MEDIA WITHOUT WORSHIPING IT The most important thing about using technology and social media without worshiping it is that of self-corrective behavior which can be achieved by everyone with discipline. Corrective behaviors include the use of software that controls the internet use and types of sites that can be visited like Qustodio or Disney's Circle for your phone and/or wireless router. These software are designed to supervise, manage and protect children device use on the go! It basically allows parents to see how their children uses devices, apps, the web and control it. For self-correction, one will for example set their alarm for say 45 mins. Things done without devices is good, which means a person is having a face-to-face interaction which is always better and rewarding. After the 45 mins, one will get outside the building or house and do something different, like reading a book or visiting a friend’s house where one can either play an old-fashioned board game like monopoly or go for a walk. Physical activity is very effective at increasing serotonin or 5-hydroxytryptamine levels which is known to decrease dependency on the use on internet devices. Boredom isn't bad, and the cure for boredom is being creative without using technology. Studies show technology and social media use just makes a person more easily bored. I. CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 12 YEARS Looking at the use of smartphones, MP3 players, TV, social media, and the internet at large make it all seems as if our kids are always plugged in. Many parents compete with technology for their kids’ attention all the time. As a family, everyone need to work together to create an acceptable technology use policy (see example below). This includes 1) Who can use it and what they are allowed to do with it? 2) Where and when they are allowed to use it? and 3) How will this use be monitored? One of the best things the parents can do regarding technology is to talk to their kids about what they are seeing, hearing and doing. What are other kids doing? What do they think about this and that? Have they seen or heard of other kids being bullied? Have they been bullied? Are your kids mature enough to understand the basics of internet safe usage? It’s also a good idea to show your children news articles about bad things that happens when kids use technology. It’s one thing to hear it from you, but to see it happen to someone their age will make them think twice. We as adults need to be very specific on what our children are allowed to do with their devices. For example; no bullying, and they should never take or look at naked photos of themselves and explain to them the consequences. Whatever they text, post, email, or tweet will become part of the public realm and they can never get it back, since it will be there to assist or hinder them as adult. The parents can use cell phone bills, monitoring software like Qustodio or Disney's Circle to look at the technology itself to see what content has been viewed. This is not an invasion of privacy – it’s not about snooping. It’s about keeping your child and other children safe from predators, bullies, and content they think they are old enough for but that is really harmful. Sample Family Acceptable Use Policy.
- You may not ignore calls or texts or email from us. We will always know the password for this device and you may not have or know the password to our devices. Your use of your devices is privileged and will be revoked for a week at the first evidence of tampering with our security or password.
- When you are at home with us, you may have ______ hour(s) on school days and ____ hour(s) on weekend days to enjoy using your digital devices. We like being with you and talk to you.
- You will return this digital device to a parent (or a guardian if we are not home) at ____ p.m. every school night and at _____ p.m. every weekend night.
- Do not post or share photos of other people without their permission. And especially, do not photograph or share inappropriate or naked images of yourself or other people. If something does happen, you can always call us for help.
- Resolve conflict with someone face to face and NOT by texting. We expect eye contact during face-to-face discussions. Don’t text when you are angry or mad.
What happens online impacts your life offline. Colleges and future employers can and will search your name, and the internet never forgets. Slow down and think before posting. II. TEENAGERS AND YOUNG ADULTS Many adults sometimes don’t know what their teenagers are going through every day which is why it’s hard to separate teenagers from social media, messaging apps, or online games and videos. Sometimes some of them are afraid of being alone and they rely on technology and the social media in general to give them a sense of belonging while their capacity for empathy and relationship suffers. There is no doubt about it, technology is inhibiting our teenager’s connection and conversation at school and at home. Somehow, they find ways around conversation, tempted by the constant bombardment of text or an email in which they feel they have to look at or listen to. We really need to teach our teenagers the virtues of person-to-person conversation and especially the use of technology and social media without worshiping it. Work with Your Teenagers and Teach them to Use Technology Wisely Challenge your teenagers as a parent for them to use technology and social media as a tool to contribute to and analyze global environmental datasets, polls, and other network science projects. Here they can collect their best work and evidence for skill mastery into portfolios for you as a parent to evaluate. This will give the teenagers a technique to move between quantitative observations to theory that they will find powerful for use later in life. And these experimental investigations will continue to mature as your teenagers mature. It may even break the barriers or walls between you and your teenagers and they may see you as allies. Depending on how good these portfolios are; they may even be able to use them in college admissions and job applications. Be A Good Role Model We need to show our teenagers how to use technology and social media in a healthy, human way while also developing wisdom, character, and courage in the way they use digital media rather than accepting technology's promises of ease, instant gratification, and the world's knowledge at their fingertips. Show them how to make money with their knowledge of technology and social media. And if you as a parent didn’t know how, pay to send them to summer school or weekend classes on how to. Teenagers with Technology Issues Need to Try Self-Help Research shows strong associations between addictive use of technology and comorbid psychiatric disorders. In “The relationship between addictive use of social media and video games and symptoms of psychiatric disorders by Andreassen et al.: A large-scale cross-sectional study; age appeared to be inversely related to the addictive use of these technologies. Being male was significantly associated with addictive use of video games, whereas being female was significantly associated with addictive use of social media. Being single was positively related to both addictive social networking and video gaming. As a teenager, you have to accept the fact you’re not an adult and hence lack the maturity to curb devices use on your own. Studies has shown that the parents taking the device away from you as a teenager doesn’t help either since it creates a withdrawal symptom like, anxiety. Instead, there are plenty of other ways to help yourself find a healthier balance: As part of a self-help, you need to recognize what make you reach for your smartphone in the first place. Is it when you’re lonely, bored, depressed, or stressed; then the excessive devices use might be a way for you to relax. And there is no better way to relax than to change your mood without the use of devices. Head on to your neighbor or friend for face-to-face interaction which can make you feel calmer, safer and less stressful. Studies shows interacting through text, email or messaging that bypasses nonverbal cues does not have the same effect on individual's emotional well-being. No one knows you better than yourself, and the ultimate goal is to build skills that will make it easier for you to relate to others and find it easier to communicate in person rather than tweeting, texting or blogging other people online. Building skills in these areas may help you weather the stresses on your daily life without relying on your devices. Think back to other times when you've reached out for your devices, is it to distract yourself from other issues like loneliness and shyness? If so, you need to reach out to your friends and family. If you are shy, there are ways to overcome social awkwardness and make lasting friendship without relying on social media or the Internet. Help your younger sibling out with their homework. They've probably been nagging you for a while about that anyway. Set a good example for your siblings. Better yet, try reaching out to your teacher for that problem you know you cannot solve by yourself or join a club at school that is not related to technology or social media. Where to Find Technology/Internet Addiction Treatment If you’re a teenager with technology and social media issues or internet addiction disorder, sometimes abbreviated as IAD; it may be time to look for outside support, teenagers often rebel against their parents, whether it’s from family, friends, or a professional therapist. It's very difficult to find a dedicated facility that specializes in technology and social media issues or internet addiction. Many treatment centers that treat internet addiction also handle a variety of other behavioral problems. Professional therapists who provide couple’s therapy often deal with patients that have a range of compulsive behavioral problems. Find treatment centers here for internet addiction in your area or call the Helpline at 888-465-7473 or 877-762-4484 or 866-208-4949. Specific therapies and therapeutic activities prescribed by a therapist will vary from teen to teen, but here are some options tested to have the best impact on a teenager with internet addiction.
- Structured and closely supervised schedule with little or no access to Internet-connected devices
- Individual, group, and family therapy
- Behavioral modification
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Equine therapy
- Expressive arts therapy
- Recreation therapy
III. ADULTS As an adult, the best way to use technology and social media without worshiping it is to cultivate habits that can free us to enjoy living. This includes: Cultivate Healthier Activities Been bored and lonely as an adult is no fun. You should resist the urge to use that device by doing a hospital visit, volunteering at church or your community, taking a yoga class, reading a book, or walking with friends. Disable Notifications Internet connected devices somehow pulls people out of the present moment and into someone else experience. Resist this by turning off the function where new posts pop up as alerts on your devices. Unless your job requires it, there is no need to take your devices like smartphone or tablet with you everywhere in the house. Leave it where you normally put it when you get home and go to the deck to relax and get some fresh air or just take time off for a quiet time.. Block Out an internet Connected Devices Turnoff Time Ever since I almost crashed into the car in front of me while driving on Interstate 5 using my smartphone about 5 years ago, I always turn off my smartphone as soon as I get into the driver’s seat. Other times I turn off the smartphone include during sporting activities, bedtime, dinner, meetings, or playing with kids. Check internet Connected Devices with a Purpose Determine from this day on to always check your smartphone with a purpose in mind. Constantly documenting everything around you to post on your social media page so that you’re socially accepted is nerve racking and time-consuming. It’s best to check your smartphone sporadically or at a scheduled time and make sure you time yourself. No Smartphone in the Bedroom or Bathroom Treat your bedroom as a mini-sanctuary where there is no eating or smartphone usage. If you cultivate this habit, your children will thank you for it when they grow up and on their own. Smartphone usage and eating in bed unless on special occasions is totally distracting and send the wrong message to your kids that they can eat in bed and take their smartphone to bed as well. Unless your job requires you leave your smartphone on all the time, or you use your smartphone as a wake-up alarm; it's best to turn off all devices and leave them in another room overnight to charge. Get traditional paper books for the bedroom and bathroom instead of eBooks on your smartphone or tablet. Uninstall social media Apps If your eyes are glued to your smartphone or tablet instead of helping that crying baby or living up to your responsibility as a parent then it may be time for you to remove the social media apps from your smartphone and check Facebook, Twitter and the like only from your personal computer. Unless you make a living from social media; you can spend as little time as you want on social media and you won’t miss out on anything. Besides, you will boost your sense of self-worth and have more time for things that are important in your life; like spending quality time that requires eye-to-eye contact with loved ones.
Rowland Adeniyi is a security and Infrastructure Architectures Consultant. Consulting to colleges, Microsoft, and other agencies. Built and maintains ECWA USA Website.
REFERENCES Andreassen, C. S., Billieux, J., Griffiths, M. D., Kuss, D. J., Demetrovics, Z., Mazzoni, E., & Pallesen, S. (2016). The relationship between addictive use of social media and video games and symptoms of psychiatric disorders: A large-scale cross-sectional study. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 30(2), 252-262. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/adb0000160 Carnes, P., Delmonico, D., & Griffin, E. (2007). In the Shadows of the Net: Breaking Free of Compulsive Online Sexual Behavior (2nd ed.). Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden Foundation. Internet addiction disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.minddisorders.com/Flu-Inv/Internet-addiction-disorder.html Stewart, C. (2010, January 13). Obsessed With the Internet: A Tale From China. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/2010/01/ff_internetaddiction/ Young, K. S. (1998) internet addiction: The emergence of a new clinical disorder. Cyberpsychology and Behavior 1: 237-244. Young, K. (n.d.). Center for internet Addiction – Education and Treatment. Retrieved from http://netaddiction.com Risky Business: internet Addiction – Help for recognizing and dealing with smartphone and internet addiction. (Mental Health America) Media Smarts – Site covering safety tips for children and how to cope with challenges such as social media, texting and messaging, and excessive internet use. (Canada's Centre for Digital and Media Literacy) Understanding Addictive Cybersex – Article by Dr. Jennifer Schneider discusses the types and consequences of cybersex addiction. (Cybersexualaddiction.com) Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous – How to find a 12-step program for sexual addictions. (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) On-Line Gamers Anonymous – Help and support for problems caused by excessive game playing. (OLGA) Restart Center – Offers programs to help you disconnect from digital media, such as smartphones, gaming, and the Internet. (Center for Digital Technology Sustainability) Apps Block social media Because Users Can't Stop Themselves – Review of anti-distraction apps and software that help you monitor and curb your smartphone and online behavior. (NPR) Smartphone Compulsion Test – Dr. David Greenfield's screening tool for smartphone overuse or addiction. (The Center for internet and Technology Addiction)