Carolyn P. Simoneaux, Ed.D.
Anything that we put before God becomes an idol. “Thou shall have no other Gods before” (Exodus 20:3). Internet use has now become an addiction. Dr. Kimberly Young wrote the book Caught in the Net in 1998 when internet use was still a novelty. This was the first book to deal with internet addiction. Twenty years later, this is now considered to be a rapidly growing field: considered today to be as real addiction as alcoholism
In any group of people, whether it is a classroom, a sports arena, or even a church service, almost everyone over the age of twelve has a smart phone. Most adults have personal computers and/or tablets, as well as their smart phones. An office is not an office today without a computer system and internet access.
In my life time, we have gone from propeller aircraft to jet engines; from ice boxes (that use ice delivered to your door) to complex refrigerators; from no telephone service in many rural areas to the cell phone in everyone’s hand; from the radio to the cable and satellite TV; from snail mail to email; from the manual typewriter to word processing; from the one car household to the three-car household, and on and on. The world is changing and technology has exponentiated that change. We buy the newest technology today and within two years it is obsolete. The new iPhone is due to come out soon and people are anxiously awaiting it. The one I have works perfectly well and is on the cutting edge of technology, but will be obsolete next month. I love my Surface computer, but I want the newest one. Why? Because it is the latest!
An article published in 2015 in PC Magazine states the following will be obsolete by 2025: (Some are almost already)
· Car mirrors
· Plastic credit cards
· Cords and chargers
· Streaming devices
· Live Human Operators
· Dedicated remote controls
· Delivery People
· Cable companies
Private Ownership is another soon to be outdated practice. The millennials, for their part, have jumped headlong into the "sharing economy." It is less complicated to buy subscription services, than to buy actual things. We no longer buy software, but subscribe to it (Microsoft 365; Intuit products). Millennials, especially are not even interested in buying things like houses or cars.
Technology has facilitated a mass communal lifestyle built around sharing resources. You can envision how this trend will only expand moving forward. As things like self-driving cars develop, why would you ever own a car and take on all the responsibilities that entails when you could just buy-in to a fleet of self-driving vehicles to get where you needed to go? That certainly seems to be the model that Uber has in mind (PC Magazine, 2015).
Is technology bad in itself? When does it become “lust”. When does it become an idol? The following charts illustrate how the exponential increase of technology use over the past two decades.
Growth of internet subscribers.
World Internet Users (per 100 people)
The field of cyberpsychology is new and still emerging, and each year it draws more interest. The sense of urgency is escalating. I think most of us who work on the front lines can feel it, along with a profound sense of loss of control. Our lives are changing, and human behavior is evolving. As a cyber behavioral scientist, I believe this is because people behave differently when they are interacting with technology than they do in the face-to-face real world (Aiken, 2016, p. 4)
How much time spent using technology devices is too much. As it is difficult to quantify how many drinks a day makes one an alcoholic, it is also difficult to say how much is too much. It is possible, however, to judge by what is a priority in our lives. We must monitor ourselves. How many times in a 24-hour period have I checked my phone, tablet, or laptop? Have you or someone you know gotten into an accident because you were texting or checking social media? Do you and your friends sit together with your phones in your hands, with eyes glued to your own personal virtual world?
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others (Ephesians 2:3 KJV).
Have our devices become a compulsive desire of the flesh and of the mind?
Stories abound of mothers or care givers so engrossed in social media that a child is neglected or abused. In her book, Akien (2016) tells the story of a mother nursing her baby while on social media. The mother’s eyes should have been connecting with the child, but instead was involved in a social media fantasy world. The sense of bounding, love, and security that the baby needed was lost because of the mother’s preoccupation. Social media games have become addictive; games like Candy Crush Saga, Farmville, etc. They are designed to pull us in and we are consumed. Anything that we cannot control is an addiction.
Have you ever looked around a restaurant and noticed how many tables are filled with people looking down at their phones, rather than at one another? I was recently in a restaurant alone. I looked around at the tables filled with people; couples, families, young, and old. In one family, the kids were on Ipads and both parents were on their phones. A couple at another table were both on their phones. This wasn’t just two tables, but throughout the restaurant, I saw the same thing over and over. When was the last time you ate a meal without checking your phone? How do you think this woman in the photo above feels? How much real communication is going on here? Have you sat at a table with others while they were on their devices? How did that make you feel?
I know what you are thinking. I would never become addicted… I have total control over my technology; over online gaming, social media, emailing, and texting. Do you? Consider…..
· Could you turn your phone and all internet access off for the next 24 hours? 3 days? 1 week?
· When was the last time you were on your phone during church – and it wasn’t using your Bible?
· When was the last time you checked your email or text messages as soon as you woke up?
· Do you have devotion first before opening a device?
· Do you complete obligations first before opening a device?
Research has shown that people can be more open, more generous, or more confrontation online than they are face-to-face. This is shown by the growth of nonprofit fund raising online. People tend to disclose personal information online that they would never expose in person. Aiken (2016) posits that this leads to quickly developed friendships and intimacy and people tend to feel safe, when actually, they aren’t. Cyber bullying has become prominent because of the tendency of people to be bolder, less inhibited, and to use poor judgement (Aiken, 2016).
Technology is a net that draws the innocent in as surely as a spider’s web draws its prey. Parents, be especially diligent with your preteens and teens; monitor what they are doing online and how much time they are spending in cyberspace. Gullible teens can quickly be drawn into a web of deceit. They are susceptible to sexual advances by adults masquerading as teens. Deceptive sites can trick the unsuspecting into divulging critical information or spending money. Popups lure them into pornography and other dark sites.
One of the most dangerous aspects of compulsive technology use is the prevalence of escapism, or virtual lives. On the site secondlife.com one can build an alternate self. The site invites visitors to “explore a second life”, “become a creator”, “have an adventure” and to become what you desire to be rather than what you are. That is only one site out of several found using the search term “online virtual lives”. It is all too easy to be lured into a fantasy world and escape the world that we are not happy in. In a virtual life, the individual that is unhappy with himself can become his perfect fantasy person, ignoring God’s perfect plan for his life
Online gaming has caused the gaming industry to explode exponentially. It is convenient, it can be done clandestinely, and it is designed to be addictive. Aiken (2016) discusses the dangers of compulsive gaming online.
Phillips describes “compulsion loops” as tasks that are repeatedly required, done over and over by the gamer in order to reach the next level of play. Game designers intentionally employ these loops, fully aware that they are derived from behavioral experiments of classical conditioning. They are similar to the hooks that encourage excessive gambling, using positive reinforcement to create addictive patterns. When the designer talks about players, it sounds a little like she’s talking about lab rats that are being trained (Aiken, 2016, p. 75.
Online gaming compels the user to keep going, deeper and deeper into the game. The longer you play, the harder the game becomes, enticing you to play longer and longer in order to win. You can’t quit until you have won! When you reach a new level, you have a false sense of satisfaction and are compelled to push through to the next level. Some games are free when you start, but then draw the user in to buying extras, enabling them to win. YouTube has scenes of “Gaming Freak Outs” where gamers become berserk over failing to defeat the game. You might say, “I would never act that way over a game.” Or would you?
What about technology use by young children? How young is too young for technology? BELIEVE IT OR NOT – You can actually buy an I-Potty with an activity pad for toddlers from popular retain outlets. Just Google it!
How young is too young?
Fifteen years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended against screen use, including television, for children under two. Today, this recommendation is based upon science driven research…No TV for babies. No apps with funny cartoons on a parent’s or babysitter’s mobile phone. The AAP believes these things could potentially have a negative influence on a child’s development” (Aiken, 2016, p. 100, Kindle Edition).
Pedagogical experts believe that babies learn to talk and develop by interaction with their mothers, dads, brother, sisters, and other humans around them. No matter how innovative, creative, and interactive, technology can never take the place of human interaction. I have seen babies as young as three months with a smart phone or iPad held for them to watch the movement on the screen. While it might entertain the child in the short run, what are the possible side effects and long-term outcomes? More and more pedagogical experts are coming out against technology use in early childhood.
What about older Children? Excessive technology use has been linked to:
· Isolation instead of connecting with friends.
· Reading deficits – scrolling, skimming – not reading. The more screen time – less reading line by line – practicing the linear process of reading.
· Obesity because of activity.
According to Rowan, a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, as many as one in three children now enter school developmentally delayed, negatively impacting literacy and academic achievement (Aiken, 2016). Rowan attributes this to too much screen time and technology use in young children. His recommends little or no screen time: “Only one hour of television per day for children ages three to five. No handheld devices or video games recommended before the age of thirteen, and a restriction on video games to thirty minutes per day for thirteen- to eighteen-year-olds” (Aiken, 2016, p. 106, Kindle Edition).
Do you think this is too restrictive, or that there are more positives to technology use at an early age than negatives? Current research is learning more each day about the negative effects of early childhood technology use and the outlook is not good. Parents beware and be informed. Advertisers would have parents believe that their child must have the latest technology in order to develop properly. Children need human interaction, not technology, in order to develop naturally, cognitively, socially, and physically.
Is technology bad? In itself, technology is neither good or bad. How it is used determines its worth or negativity. Use the technology – do not allow the technology to use you. Just like a physical diet, you should practice a digital diet.
A few suggested guidelines:
· No devices when in a social situation with others.
· Turn your devices off at dinner, whether at home or in a restaurant.
· Limit your device use to “need only” in church, the work place, or class.
Be intentional about how, when, and where you use your devices. You are in control! Or, you should be.
Aiken, Mary (2016). Cyber Effect. Kindle Edition.
Dashevsy Evan, PC MagazineAugust 20, 2015 http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2489562,00.asp
Young, Kimberly – You-tube Ted Talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOSYmLER664