Digital Addiction and our Kids

December 18, 2018

An Open Letter on Digital Addiction and Our Kids

I have a confession to make: my older children have smart phones and school-issued laptops. My younger children each have a tablet and I let them play games on my smart phone. And, we have a laptop and an Xbox at home. Our children have great access to digital media, and I often ask myself if we are raising them right in this digital world.

Lately I have become more sensitive to the issue and potential threat of “digital addiction”. A colleague of mine forwarded an article on the topic which got me thinking about it even more. With some reflection, I realized I should stop asking myself if we are raising our children right and turn to our Catholic teachings for some clarity.

My natural inclination of course, was to turn to the internet for some research (cue the eye roll emoji please). After laughing at the irony of the moment, I turned to the Bible and some reflections from renowned Catholic authors and ordained clergy. I skimmed through Bible verses, research and opinions and here are three things that really stuck with me:

First, best-selling Catholic author Dean Koontz wrote this in one of his novels:

New technology – like the computer – freed men and women from all kinds of drudgery, saved them vast amounts of time. . . .And yet the time saved did not seem to mean additional leisure or greater opportunities for meditation and reflection. Instead, with each new wave of technology, the pace of life increased; there was more to do, more choices to make, more things to experience, and people eagerly seized upon those experiences and filled the hours that had only moments ago become empty. Each year life seemed to be flitting past with far greater speed than the year before…”

I can identify with this observation as a working adult. For my children, I don’t know that they have reached the age for technology to free up their time yet, but it has definitely stolen the free time they do have.  I admit that, when I pick up my 5 year old and second grader from school, the first thing they do when they climb into the car is ask to “play my phone” on the 10 minute car ride. Then, they proceed to argue over who gets to play the Xbox first when they get home. (To be fair, let’s be clear that my older kids are no better; they have to have their devices and headphones for every car ride, despite the destination.)

Second, not anywhere in the Bible did I find anything related to how many Twitter followers or Instagram likes (or a biblical-time equivalent) Jesus wants His children to have.

Third, as I wrote this editorial, my boss dropped by the office and asked what I was working on. Discussing the topic of this article, she asked if I had heard about “Adult 101” courses. What? I had to “google it” of course. It turns out this is a real thing offered by professionals known as Millennial Transition Coaches. Millennial Transition Coaches are arguably one of the fastest growing sectors of the self-help industry in large metropolitan areas. Why do Millennials need help learning how to be an “Adult”? Well, it turns out that digital media has a lot to do with the gaps in  their learning how to effectively communicate, manage relationships and prioritize what’s important.

If this alarms you like it does me, I invite you to join me in making the most of the time remaining this Advent to put first things first and inspire (or force!) a change in digital usage habits with our children.

How can we combat an addiction to technology? Some things on which to reflect:

  1. How much time daily do we spend with our children? Is it more or less than the time they spend playing video games or online?
  2. Do we spend more time online or on entertainment on a given day than we do on spiritual reading or prayer so that we imitate Jesus better in our friendships, family, and work/school life?
  3. How much time do we spend on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy?
  4. Do we encourage activities that have nothing to do with screens, especially activities that our child shows an interest in?
  5. Do we enforce screen limits, especially at home?
  6. Do we prohibit playing violent games or watching/listening to mature content?

Parent-to-parent, I share with you my conviction to watch for signs of digital addiction in our children. These days parenting or teaching without screens entirely is not realistic. We can, however, teach our children how to use technology responsibly. I invite you to share your suggestions with other parents on the newly created Facebook Group called “Raising Kids with God” on our HolyCross Facebook page.

Happy Advent to you and your family.

Aileen Meyer
Parent and Holy Cross Catholic School Marketing Director

 

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