Digital Addiction: Is Online Media as addictive as Drugs and Fast Food ?
Part II in a Three part series on Addressing Our Digital Crisis
Maybe it is. Addictive and debilitating to the unprepared mind. That’s what top executives in Silicon Valley seem to think, starting with Steve Jobs in his days, and Bill Gates. When asked if his kids liked the new iPad, Jobs said he’d never let them use it!
In Silicon Valley, a Waldorf school protects kids from digital addiction, notes Adam Alter, author of the « Irresistible » book, which came out in March 2017. They do not use computers in the classroom until Grade 7.
I guess its do as I say, not as I do, for the brightest tech executives…
Are digital media companies worried lower use by kids would minimize profits? Woops, I forgot my daily Kool-Aid. That would inhibit us from « connecting the world » , wouldn’t it…?
How come being ultra connected to Facebook and video games « worldwide « makes 25% of millennials feel depressed, according to a recent study by sociologist Jon Callegher, of George Brown College (Toronto). Stories like that of this addictive young gamer, who barely escaped suicide, are growing.
How is it that ADD has been developing at the same time that video games have? The American CDC (Centers for Disease Control) estimated 11% of children 4 to 17 in the US have ADHD — in 2011! It affected one in 5 boys vs one in 11 girls.
Older adults and professionals also struggle with digital obesity, or digital addiction. The Screenagers movie directed by a mother and Stanford trained doctor looks at kids and parents’ digital media consumption to ask: is it really ok to “ let it be” for our kids? What examples are some parents setting with their constant cell phone use?
At a professional level, those who work on computers or with cell phones have felt overwhelmed by their digital media intake, on the job, but also at home. France, the country of “ l’art de vivre”, and yes, the 35-hour work week, also coined the word “infobésité” ( infobesity) and a “Right to Disconnect” law in effect since January 2017.
Private Sector Solutions to Digital Addiction:
Apps like NetNanny try to fill the void left by tech corporations and public institutions, but they can only address a minimal proportion of parents, those who are geeky enough to spend time installing the app.
Various private entitites in Canada, the US and France are holding workshops for students, parents and teachers, using education to address the most blantant side-effects of uneducated digital media use by the youngest: from cyberbullying, sexting, to exposing one’s life online — then offline. Tech for Good Canada is a young orgaization advocating for healthy digital literacy and translating our basic human rights to the digital space. It offers free workshops to schools and contests to make kids critically aware of their digital use.
While this organization is helpful, too aften, other speakers perform a scary cop routine, leaving kids either laughing or scared, without the digital smarts they need to live with digital media in a healthy way. And progress on training can only be as quick as an “Ed Tech”- enamoured educational system without a government mandate allows.
The next step, once we as a society face up to digital obesity, will be to add digital media moderation and critical thinking education, on a general scale. This approach has been around in geeky California and the US as a whole for over 15 years, under the name of “ Digital Citizenship” . It is what I focus on in talks to teens and parents.
I’ve started using the Moment application on my « smart » phone. It tracks how much time I spend on it daily. Putting a figure on your actual digital media use is a great first step to realizing it may be taking time away from family, friends, sports and other real wold activities. Remember reading?
The CAMH hospital in Toronto, Canada, already has a digital detox clinic for youth above 16 . It just added a department for adults in May 2017.
To help adults who are suffering from a form of ADHD at work, Saent developped a device coupled with software to bring focus back to your daily work routine, too often interrupted by navigating to articles and content that is not relevant but time consuming.