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Have You Turned Your Child Into An Addict?

Parents, it's time to get serious and take a real look at the impact of technology on our children and their development. We have handed our babies, our pride and joy, our little darlings an item that will take control of their lives and change their personalities. It will steal their happiness, cause them anxiety, teach them to be sneaky, and increases their impulsivity. It gives them an excuse to avoid awkward situations, redefines their views on cheating, and can lead to some extremely compromising situations. Have you already handed your child this mind altering drug?

After a recent viewing of the film Screenagers, I was left in a bit of a daze as I processed all of the information. What the film highlighted for me was simply overwhelming. Technology, specifically cell phones, are creating neural pathways that are akin to other addictive substances. Developers purposefully create games and apps that have addictive positive reinforcements that cause the brain to release dopamine, and leaves brains chasing the technological dragon.

Technology was once heralded as the way to make the world smaller and more connected, and its original intention was honorable. But what this technology has created was easier ways for people to escape; to build their own fantasy worlds with idealized avatars where they were able to achieve accolades and acceptance as they could not in real life. Technology allows for anonymous posts and "trolling" and emotional abuse to occur without real life consequences, and as these behaviors become commonplace online, they also cross over to into the real world. Are we more connected as a global society? Look around you. Heck, look down in your own hand. Where is your device? Whether it be a phone, iPad, laptop, or gaming device, they are all gateways to disconnecting with those in your physical presence.

This disconnection is becoming more apparent in the families I work with. I am noticing a greater number of children, teens, and young adults with anxiety issues. They lack the fundamentals to handle their emotions, lack empathy for others, have little self control, and have a false idol for pleasure seeking approval. Their self esteem and confidence is non-existent and go into avoidance mode whenever conflict arises. I've also noticed how many of them put on "shows" and perform for a few minutes, but are floundering to find their true identity. They end up feeling lonely, depressed, filled with anxiety, and often develop suicide ideation.

So what do we do? Here are some steps you can implement TODAY to help your children reconnect to REAL Life.

  1. Turn off all technology an hour before bedtime or by 9pm. This forces all tech based homework to be done earlier in the evening and gives their brains a chance to unwind from the overstimulation. Use the last hour of the day to read positive and inspirational books, to reflect and write down three items they were grateful for from their day, and to prepare for the next day.

  2. Contact your child's teachers to find out how much homework they have that is internet based, and the projected amount of time it should take. You can then adjust their suggested time to your child's ability to process the information and gather their needed resources. This teaches them to prioritize their time by determining what information they need prior to going online, and minimizes their excuses for getting sidetracked by cat videos and games.

  3. Have all passwords to your child's devices and apps. Follow them on their social media and make it a point to physically check what they have saved as well as for alternate accounts. If your child cannot agree to allowing you access to their device and apps, you are welcome to take all technology back. Remember, YOU pay the bills and YOU ARE THE PARENT! Our kids don't have to like us all of the time, but it is our responsibility to ensure they reach adulthood with the necessary skills to make them independent and capable of sound decisions.

  4. Review your child's social media profiles and ask them what image they are portraying online. Ask them if that image is also how they actually feel about themselves. Do they feel lonely or depressed? Do they deal with bullying? Do they feel like they can truly be REAL? The biggest thing to remember is YOU NEED TO LISTEN FIRST. Do not try to invalidate their feelings or tell them what to do. Listen and mirror back to them, "What I heard you say was..." so they know they were heard. After you have listened, thank them for sharing and allow them space. You can return to that conversation a day or so later to ask if they would like your input, but most will come to you to get your two cents.

  5. Give your children opportunities to interact with others in real life! Sign them up for a sport or club. Get them involved in youth group or a rec league. Have quality family time that is tech free! Go to the park, take a family walk, or dare to go somewhere that has no reception! REAL Life does not happen in front of a screen! Find some friendly faces, share some laughter, and create memories!

These steps are just the start. Remember to model the behavior you want to see. Give your children your full attention when you are with them. Put all devices away at meal time, and allow yourself to be held accountable. Allow technology to have a place in your lives, but be its master instead of submitting to be its slave. May you reclaim your children and maybe even your own lives from this addiction.

For more information, you can check out these articles:

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