Coincidence that a friend loaned me Digital Cocaine by Brad Huddleston right after my two months with no internet? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Especially in light of the surprising answer Steve Jobs made regarding his children and the newly released iPad in 2010.
They haven’t used it… we limit how much technology our kids use at home — Steve Jobs, from a 2010 New York Times column by Nick Bolton.
According to Brad Huddleston, the trend in the tech-Mecca Silicon Valley is to limit their children’s internet use. Many of these executives send their children to schools that do not even allow technology. Waldorf Schools, which stress analog, non-digital forms of learning. Learning through physical activity, hands-on activities, creative thinking, and human interaction. Using tools like pens, paper, knitting needles, and mud. No screens allowed, and home use of them is also frowned upon.
The question which comes is: What do the tech executives know that we don’t?
Digital Cocaine drew me in from the first chapter: “Drugs by Another Name.” Which addresses the continually growing problem of digital addiction. That which he calls “socially acceptable addictions.” Constant use of smartphones, trying to multitask while jumping from email to one social media platform or website after another.
The book opens telling how two teen-aged girls admitted to their severe digital addiction. Basically sharing that they couldn’t live without their phones, and didn’t know how to stop. Nothing new there, is there? We’ve all seen them, especially the younger generations raised on these. Together in a group, yet as far from each other as though across the planet.
The book delves pretty much into every area there is risk of digital addiction. So-called multi-tasking (so-called, but that’s for another post), which is especially linked to social media. Pornography, video gaming, bullying and cyber-bullying, and dementia in the classroom.
The statistics and stories are frightening. Downright horrifying. Video-gamers so addicted that they let their children die from neglect. Others who wear adult diapers because they don’t want to take a break. Teens, and even young children, addicted to porn, even sites specializing in violent porn.
But the thing that most saddened me is how many parents do not monitor their child’s or teen’s internet use.
And their reasoning usually goes along the line of, “My kid is good kid and wouldn’t visit bad sites.” Or they downplay the dangers and risks altogether. But the dangers are real. The risks are high. And no one is immune to temptation. This is clear by the high percentages of people addicted to porn. And the percents remain high regardless of age, and even among Christians and clergy. No one is immune to temptation.
The second thing which struck me is how damaging screen time is to our brain.
“What’s the difference between half a line of cocaine and an hour playing a video game? Nothing as far as your brain is concerned.” Huddleston affirms.
Physicians and scientists now state that digital devices stimulate the section of the brain which controls impulses, in the exact same way that cocaine does. And this raises the dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitters most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as drugs and sex do.
Technology can also contribute to all kinds of other problems. From attention deficit to lack of memory. From sleep disorders to lack of focus, and more. Digital addiction, in fact, is creating a whole new subset of actual and real psychiatric problems:
- Digital dementia — overuse and misuse of technology resulting in a breakdown of cognitive abilities.
- Facebook depression — low self-esteem as a result of seeming unpopularity on social media.
- FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) — anxiety over missing out on, or being left out of, events posted on social media.
- Nomophobia — phone separation anxiety, where the person suffers fear or anxiety at being without their phone.
- Anhedonia —the reduced ability to experience pleasure and enjoyment over simple, ordinary things, resulting from brain overload.
- Internet Addiction Disorder — excessive internet use which interferes with daily life.
- Phantom Vibration Syndrome — where people are convinced their phone vibrated when it didn’t.
- Cybercondria —hipocondria which results from reading over-reading on medical websites.
- Video Game Addiction— compulsive use of video and computer games.
The final section of the book deals with healing the brain and winning in this battle for hearts and minds.
For anyone already addicted, it’s a tough section. Because the only real solutions are by taking tough and drastic action. And any who know they need help, but still fail to act, probably already suffer with one or more of the above conditions.
But Huddleston brings the assurance that there is hope, and there is help out there. This book is well-worth the read. And particularly important for parents, grandparents, teachers, and others who work with children.
For any of us not addicted, it should serve as a preventative. And it offers good tips on how to help others, especially your own children, regain balance, and learn how to enjoy Real Life once more.