Tag Archives: Addictions

Kids on Drugs….I Mean, Screens

Photo Credit: Flickr

I have a confession to make.

There’s a precious little girl in my life who calls me “Ga” (because she can’t yet say “Gram”). Not even 20 months old, she has learned well how to use her tiny index finger to point for us to take her wherever in the house or yard she wants to go. She demonstrates her mastery of body parts by pointing that finger to her eye, nose, mouth, etc. when we call out the word. Just recently, she holds up that singular wee finger when identifying the number “win”.

My heart melts.

Unfortunately, I am a culprit contributing to the delinquency of a minor…no, no. Not that…but I have contributed to her developing that index finger further in playing with my smart phone. She knows how to scroll through pictures and she knows how to tap the “play” icon to start up videos.

Is that so horrible? What’s the harm?

[Here’s the disclaimer. There is no judgment here whatsoever for the sleep-deprived moms out there who hand their preschooler their smart phone or tablet while nursing or dressing the baby…or trying to get dinner prepared…or (fill in the blank). I remember the years of small ones myself, so many years ago. In fact, the TV as babysitter was my go-to device to get stuff done or maintain my own supposed sanity. Not just for the little ones but for myself, just to watch something for my own relaxation. Of course, they were watching with me…so I had to consider the possible impact of that then, as I’m writing about screens now.]Photo Credit: Pexels

My confession comes from a place of discovery. The problem is not that this toddler likes looking at pictures of her family on my phone. That has to be a morally neutral (even positive) thing. Also not a problem is her fondness for her Uncle Nae’s music videos. She has her favorites and daily asks to see those (Dayman and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas)…among others…several others.

The problem is when she doesn’t get her way. When Mommy intervenes or when Gram comes to her senses about the amount of screen time she’s facilitating. Then this funny, sweet, curious little girl flings her head back, attempts a body-slam, and emits a piercing angry cry against those who would keep her from her screen(s).

Morally neutral or even positive goes out the window at that point. Given her reaction, when does something soothing and enriching like family photos and videos cross a line…out there in a few kiddie years…to a screen or internet addiction?

I don’t think I’m over-reaching here. There is balance absolutely, but if we don’t even consider the risk, we won’t take steps to keep screen use healthy for our children/grandchildren. I’m dealing with this in my own head right now…and in my habits.

Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

But it’s even worse than we think.

We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex. – Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

I was reminded of when our boys were middle schoolers. A friend of theirs came over to spend the night. They played video games for hours. When we finally told the boys to take a break, the friend actually became more and more anxious, even to the point of not being able to get his breath. We had to take him home.

Now all toddlers are not going to end up heroin…I mean, tech junkies. Again, there is a balance in how we determine what’s a healthy use of electronic devices and where limits need to be set.

It’s just something to think about. My confession here relates to the personal struggle I have with internet dependence. I was a late adopter of smart phones (my first being in 2013). At the time, my job was a communications strategist for a new work team. Managing a blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, and other office communications kept me online most of the time. Online and distracted by it. Still a struggle for me to have balance in this area.

I don’t want to have that sort of influence on this darling granddaughter, our tinier grandson, or others who will come after.

Before smartphones and Wi-Fi, I was a people-watcher and a people-engager. I read books more. Had people over all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong…those things still happen…but screens are a huge distraction for me. I would love to be one of the nurturers for our grandchildren of a different sort of life… Screen time is going to happen every day, sure…but not to the point where they don’t prefer talking face-to-face with people nor be a part of great adventures or discover the world (in real life).Photo Credit: Flickr

How are you handling your own electronic version of life? Please share in the Comments section. You will find helpful links below – articles and books. All the articles are practical and empowering. [I have not yet read the books; they are recommended by the authors of some of the articles below.]

As for our little one’s love of her uncle’s videos? She will still be watching them, just not over and over and over. Fortunately she can also enjoy the music (without benefit of the screens) because we are Patreon patrons of her uncle with his MP3s as perks). Those music files were a great help recently to this tiny girl enduring a long roadtrip. Listening to her favorites, she finally fell asleep.

Peace.

5 Friday Faves – On Foster Care, Losing Control, Best Bakeries, Pornography, and Efficiency

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! I have guests visiting from out of country so writing time has taken a back seat to sweet times with friends. Still, what a week this has been in discovery. I chose just five favorites but would love to hear (in Comments below) what some of your faves of this week are. Learning is one of my favorite pastimes.

  1. On Foster Care    – It’s dangerous for me to start with such a topic because many will click out of this blog just on reading the title (“Not me”; “Not interested”). Foster care is not for everyone, but it has to be for some of us. What if we worked together to provide safe and loving homes for every child in crisis? Chris Campbell and Team of 111Tulsa, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, started just such an initiative. I read a bit of the story in his wife’s blog  A Turning Point then I wrote about foster care. We can care for these children together.Blog - Foster LetterPhoto Credit: AshleyAnnPhotography.com

2.  On Losing Control – This week, a blog by Jenilee Goodwin entitled The End of Me popped up in my inbox on a busy day. It might have gone unread except for that title. My Mom, my life-long best friend and the head cheerleader of Team Me, died over a decade ago. That was a grace-covered jolt to my sense of life and its dependability. God helped me through that long season of grief because He had already brought me through an “end of me” experience very similar to the one Jenilee describes in her blog. Crossing cultures and learning languages and the raw not-doing-anything-well are huge opportunities to see how tenuous our “control” is. God is dependable; our circumstances are not. Her piece was beautiful and deeply personal. Wherever you are in life, you will gain much by reading her story.Blog - Mom's funeral

3. On Best Bakeries – When Business Insider does an photo-splashed article on The Best Bakery in Every State, I took the time to read it. Or should I say “savor it” – without endangering my health. Finding that the “best bakery” in Virginia to be Blackbird Bakery in Bristol (as far across the state from us as could be found), I will drop my own “Best Bakery” in here. For doughnuts anyway, that bakery is the Westhampton Pastry Shop.  Ridiculously yummy. What’s your favorite?

Blog - Best Bakery - Westhampton Pastry Shop

Photo Credit: Westhampton Pastry Shop, yelp.com

4) On Pornography – A very serious topic – I placed it on purpose under “best bakeries” because there are all kinds of addictions. The scary difference is the fact that some addictions have outward presentations (like food, drug, and alcohol addictions). Not pornography. Addiction to pornography can do its damage in the quiet and isolation of one’s personal space in front of a screen (phone, tablet, computer). Yet, its damage reaches into relationships, career, and even our own anatomy and physiology. This Is Your Brain on Porn probably won’t deter someone addicted to pornography, but it could sound a warning that what you think is “not hurting anyone” really is…those you love…and you.Blog - Your Brain on PornPhoto Credit: Ideapod, Churchm.ag

5) On Efficiency – If you got this far, you are in for a huge treat. This week, as I watch friends go through a company downsizing, the subject came up of efficiency and effectiveness. Does one necessarily lead to the other? Are they the same? In learning more about that, I came across this happy little article by Eric Gilbertson on the push for efficiency in our colleges and universities – The Pursuit of Efficiency and the Pursuit of Folly. Sweet article. Then the book Team of Teams which my husband recently read (devoured really) came to mind. General McChrystal writes brilliantly about adaptability, not efficiency, as our greatest need in the workplace of the 21st century. Work matters…and the people doing the work matter. Get this book…your appetite will be whetted by the articles linked below.Blog - Efficiency and Adaptability - General McChrystal

Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal

Efficiency in Business Isn’t Key Says Retired General

Gen. Stanley McChrystal: Adapt to win in the 21st Century

Work Smart – Let General Stanley McChrystal Explain Why Adaptability trumps Hierarchy – Forget everything you ever knew about your company’s org chart—and that’s an order.

The Tim Ferriss Experiment – General Stan McChrystal on Eating One Meal Per Day, Special Ops, and Mental Toughness

Your Brain On Porn

Love Your Neighbor – Foster Parenting & Adoption – Every Child in a Safe and Loving Home – www.debmillswriter.com