Does my child need a digital detox?
Updated: Jan 6
"JUST ONE MORE GAME!"
If you have a computer or games machine in your house, these words may be all too familiar. Routine tasks such as getting everyone out the door in the morning can become military operations, requiring the diplomatic touch of Kofi Annan. As for getting the children to put down their devices, that's another matter altogether....
Whats the problem?
For those of us of a certain age, you will no doubt hark back to a bygone age when you ran through wheat-fields with your friends, playing out till dusk before settling down to family time around the table. Ok, me neither. The point is however, that technology is here and here to stay. There is also no question that it has made many aspects of our lives much simpler, and arguably freed up time that we can spend doing things we enjoy, with those we love.
When the whole of society consumes something en-mass, there are very few voices saying, 'hang on, are we happy with our direction of travel?' When I get my tram to the counselling clinic, it is rammed full of commuters, all with a screen about an inch from their nose. The silence is errie, and more like living in a Dystopian society.
What about the kids?
50% of 16-18 year olds feel that they are 'addicted' to their phones.
Worringly, 24% of those asked admitted to being 'permanently online'. When you consider that regular users of social media are 3 times more likely to develop a mental health illness, understanding the impact of our love for all things digital is more important than ever. With the birth of Facebook, and for the younger generation, Instagram, the blur between reality and fiction can cause real issues. Constantly comparing their lives to the 'perfect' ones of photo-shopped influencers, or being told what foods they should and shouldn't eat, can lead to serious issues of self-worth, eating disorders and self-harm. This, of course, isn't an issue restricted to young people. Indeed, a global study suggested that 10% of people are at risk from a form of internet addiction disorder.
So what is the answer?
Social media apps and online games such as fortnite have been created to give the consumer the same kick as gambling. Be it a level up in a game, or getting another like for a post, they create the same endorphin rush as pressing play on a fruit machine. The longer the person does that thing, the more important it becomes as the source of pleasure, sometimes at the expense of other things that suddenly feel 'boring' by comparison. That's not to say we are all addicted, but if a child gets cross, is always tired or has broken eating habits, some intervention may be required, as unchecked, will only develop further.
There are occasions when a young person may not be able to regulate their consumption of their game or phone, when the only solution is to withdraw it for a period. More important however, is to understand that a subtle dependency may be creeping in, something that the child is quite unconscious of, and not at fault for. Talking to a child with this in mind, may help to better understand how it feels for them. If communication breaks down completely, counselling can be a good way of allowing a young person to make sense of their own feelings, without the added pressure of talking to their adult. For us all to gain a greater understanding of our relationship with the digital world, will put us back in control of it.
Perhaps the solution lies in truly understanding this, and that as with all things, technology is a good servant, but a bad master.
Many thanks for getting to the bottom!
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