How much time do you spend each day on social media? Have you ever thought about going two days without accessing the computer? Have you managed recently to stay three days without video games? We are going to deal with electronic addictions today.
We will have a look at some of the more recent scientific findings that have shown how addiction, and specifically electronic addictions, can affect your brain in an unhealthy way. Do you know that today there are specific treatments for people who are addicted to the internet, social networks and video games?
But let’s understand what an addiction is. An addict is a person who is dependent on something, so addiction is what becomes a god to you. If you look at what you are addicted to, you are worshiping this object and it becomes a god. Addiction is what dominates your thoughts, dominates your feelings and influences your attitudes. If we want a scientific definition of addiction, it can be: It is an unhealthy model of substance use or some other object, which leads to negative changes in your health.
Addiction separates you from your emotions. You may notice, when you stop or try to stop something that is the object of your addiction, there is certainly anxiety, restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, irritability and impatience. So addiction dulls reasoning and emotions.
If you are addicted, it can be sex, a substance that is legalized as alcohol, you certainly have a numbness, an anesthesia, a blockage of some reasoning, some thoughts, some feelings that you would need to be experiencing to have a healthier behavior. So you use a substance, you use a product, you use a practice, in this case video game addiction, social network addiction, internet addiction, you use that to numb your emotion, then comes a remorse: I spent a lot of time on it! Oh boy, I neglected my kids! I arrived late for work! I spent a lot of money, because I wanted to buy a more powerful equipment! Or whatever else! Then comes the guilt, then comes the feeling of lack of self-worth, because I think I’m no good as a human being, I don’t think there’s an escape, and then you feel more anguish, more sadness and then you can think: Let me get on a social network again to see if I can relieve myself a little. And you get this sick emotional ping pong, it’s really a destructive cycle!
Types of Addictions
Every addiction creates a destructive cycle for your health, for your peace, for your happiness and also for the well-being of the people around you. There are several types of addictive agents, that is, there are several instruments, several situations, several practices that can produce an addiction in your life, not just alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and what we are talking now about the internet. There are people addicted to work, to success, to spending too much, to gambling, to accumulating goods, people addicted to controlling others, to humiliating people, it is an addiction, a disorder, an alteration. You have to deal with it. There are people addicted to food, people addicted to sex, pedophilia, pornography, indeed, there is an epidemic of pornography addiction. People you never imagined are connected with this.
This is a symptom; the world is compulsive. Compulsive not in a positive sense unfortunately, of having a compulsion to do something good for society. The world is medicated, the world is anesthetized, the world is altered, in their emotions, in their reasoning due to various types of drugs.
Some people are addicted to approval, a need to please, always neglecting their needs to see if they please someone. People in a savior role, people who are dependent on toxic relationships. What is a toxic relationship? It’s a relationship that’s bad for you, that will harm you. There are people who marry a complicated person, suffer a lot, separate, marry another complicated person, suffer a lot again. There are people with a mania for their physical outlook, their cosmetics and clothing, obsessed with aesthetics and plastic surgery, it’s just that these people want to try to look good on the outside, while on the inside they’re not very well centered. Some people are addicted to academic titles, there are various types of addictions there.
There exists a vicious cycle of addiction. The person has emotional pain, he has emotional discomfort, there is something that is not well resolved within him, some trauma. I don’t like this word because it gives the impression that emotional suffering has to do with a trauma, while in reality it is a set of situations in life that are, in general, painful and difficult, which develops the person’s emotional suffering. So he has pain, he looks for an agent to get rid of this pain, it can be cocaine, marijuana, sex, pornography, food, as I said, he has a temporary anesthesia of this pain, then it can have negative consequences, it will depend on the type of addictive object that he’s using, and then he’s finally going to have shame, guilt and that results in more pain and lessening of his self-worth and he gets stuck in this cycle.
Effects of Electronic Addiction
Some studies show that too much time on the internet infantilizes the brain. It’s showing that it can produce a generation of young people incapable to think for themselves. For anything, they get on the internet: Let’s see what that person says. They will access site a b c or d.
Dr Susan Greenfield, a neuroscientist at Oxford University, says the following: The immediacy of imagery in the internet impairs mental development in children and adolescents. These images are very fast, the child’s brain is not prepared to be able to manage all of this. So it’s different from stories told by parents in the past, They used to sit on the porch, telling stories of this and that to the children, but a story that has a beginning, a middle, an end, and a lesson. On the internet, those images with a lot of virtual stimulation confuses children’s minds. So these stories that parents can offer their children help the brain to think in sequence, reason from cause to effect, in addition to the emotional bond that father and mother have talking to their child and interacting with the family.1)Greenfield S, “Excesso de internet pode criar geração de jovens incapazes de pensar por si próprios” Revista Ser Médico, Jan/Fev/Mar de 2012
In the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a very interesting scientific study was done by a scientist named Fuchun Lin in 2012, he came to the conclusion that young people who surf excessively in the internet have brain changes similar to those seen in gambling compulsives.2)Lin F, Abnormal White Matter Integrity in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder: A Tract-Based Spatial Statistics Study. Plos One, January 11, 2012. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0030253. So you see the matter is serious.
At the University of Rochester, in a 2010 study by scientist Daphne Bavelier, she came to the following conclusion that there is a strong correlation between exaggerated computer use and brain abnormalities.3)Bavelier D et.al. Children, Wired: For Better and for Worse. Neuron, Vol. 67, Issue 5, 9 September 2010. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2010.08.035
What To Do About Electronic Addictions?
What can you do if you’re addicted to electronics, social networking, you can’t go two hours without accessing and posting things? And if you stop you will feel symptoms of the withdrawal crisis, anxiety, irritation, impatience and nervousness, some lose their appetite, in others it increases appetite or causing insomnia? Let’s talk a little bit if you have children and don’t know how to dose the use of electronics in their hands, what can be done?
First, it’s important to understand that any compulsion can serve to keep you from realizing some inner needs, experiencing certain emotions, living certain thoughts, improving relationships in some areas of your life. If the family you live in is experiencing this problem of excessive use of electronics, then it is important that the family as a whole looks for solutions to this. It’s no use for you as a father, as a mother who is addicted to electronics, wanting to teach your child a moral lesson and say: “Stop it! Or: Turn it off! Give it to me! I’ll take it away!” But you are addicted too? You can’t put down your electronics, how are you going to exact this from your child? To fix the excess, the abuse of electronics that can already be characterized as an addiction, it is important that you lead by example.
So in this family where there is a member who is really addicted, maybe a young man is leaving his studies, because he spends hours and nights on his computer, in his bedroom, he sees who knows what, even if you have parental control connected on the computer, you need to set an example. So this young person or child will need a limit in their computer time. You have to determine this as a father, as a mother, you have to have a firm hand, love has to be firm. If you’ve a small child, don’t put electronics in that child’s hand too early. Take it to the park or play an educational toy with them.
So parents need to lead by example. Because you as a dad or mom might not be addicted to electronics, but you can be addicted to something else. There are people who come home, tired from work and say: My day was so exhausting, let me have a drink of whiskey to relax! Oops! Or they may say: Where’s my tranquilizer, have you seen my medicine box over there? I’m nervous, I want to take an extra dose of tranquilizer! You know your son, your daughter is seeing this, is noticing that you are dependent on something to make you feel better.
Then you can allow internet access for your children after they do some chores or homework. It seems that parents today feel guilty about giving chores to their children. They want to give everything on a silver plate to their children. This is a diseducation. In a house, even if it is a middle-class or rich house, even if it has employees for house cleaning for example, it is important that father and mother finds some simple tasks for their children: “you clean your closet, you put the garbage out, you put the clothes into the dryer, you help me here to peel these fruits so we can have breakfast, because the maid hasn’t arrived yet. This participation, this setting of limits, giving tasks to your children, for everyone to participate, is necessary. This does not mean that you will be sitting in the armchair demanding: “Go there and bring me my coffee, go do this and that!” If you participate then this will help in setting limits for your children, including internet usage. This is an important factor, because the ones who set rules in the house have to be the father and the mother.
Another important thing you can do with your children is to change the electronics use pattern, like: “Look, you’re only going to use the computer after doing a homework and school assignment. You only use your tablet after you shower.” That’s it, it’s set. You have to dialogue and explain, and keep that decision firm. Don’t go back. So don’t say something you won’t do, or you’ll lose morale. They will see that you say something and don’t do it, or give in easily. Being firm is different from exercising authoritarianism; an emotional dictatorship should not exist in the relationship between parents and children.
Children need an authority, that’s why God even placed a commandment: honor father and mother. Some scientific studies, analyzing young people who were raised in very dictatorial homes, compared to young people raised in homes that were very liberal, have shown that these young people in their adulthood had somewhat similar sufferings. In other words, children raised in very dictatorial homes, which can never do anything, had emotional distress in adulthood, and also young people who could do anything when they wanted to, also had emotional distress in adulthood. Why? Because young teenagers who had this freedom, said consciously: “Oh my dad, my mom, is cool, they let me do what I want!”, but deep down they felt like: “Do they care about myself? Are they interested in me? Do they want to know how my inner world is?” That’s interesting!
If there is any kind of addiction, you have already noticed that your child is too much hooked to the computer in his room, you will have to make a decision and explain: “Look son, I’m going to put the computer in the living room.”, especially if you’ve noticed that he’s hiding what he does, or if you’ve already seen that he’s been accessing some bad websites. It’s not even a dictatorial attitude, because you could even take the computer away from him. But you’re giving him a chance: “I’ll put the computer in the room for you to use in an educated way, for things that are good for you.” Because people go back and forth in the room, which restricts inappropriate use. Of course, there are also programs that block certain websites. You can also use a timer: “Look, I’ll put an hour here for you before you take a shower, or after you shower”. You can use this strategy.
It is also important to think about whether there is some kind of emotional disorder that is leading this person to this addiction. This may need a professional assessment. There are people who may be addicted to pornography, and then they will need to have specialized treatment to deal with it and get out of that kind of suffering.
We might think: “Wow, that sounds somewhat backwards and outdated, how can I pass this on to my children?” Because kids today want electronics! How to go about it? Will you block everything? For infants yes, but for a little bit older children you can dose them. “You will play a little in the backyard, a little in the park, climb the trees, play on the beach and then you have a moment alone with your electronics”. It’s not one or the other, but you definitely don´t want your kids on electronics all day long without having any outdoor activity. The virtual world is not a healthy replacement for the real world. So, protect your kids from overexposure to electronics. And small child doesn’t need a cell phone. I would like to finish with the text that is in the book of Luke:
People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”4)The Bible, Luke 18:15,16 (New International Version).Luke 18:15.16
Take care of your children so that they don’t get their brains harmed by excessive exposure to electronics!
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Dr. Cesar Vasconcellos de Souza is working as a psychiatrist and international speaker. He is author of 3 books, columnist of the health magazine “Vida e Saúde” for 25 years, and has a regular program on the “Novo Tempo” TV channel.
|Greenfield S, “Excesso de internet pode criar geração de jovens incapazes de pensar por si próprios” Revista Ser Médico, Jan/Fev/Mar de 2012
|Lin F, Abnormal White Matter Integrity in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder: A Tract-Based Spatial Statistics Study. Plos One, January 11, 2012. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0030253
|Bavelier D et.al. Children, Wired: For Better and for Worse. Neuron, Vol. 67, Issue 5, 9 September 2010. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2010.08.035
|The Bible, Luke 18:15,16 (New International Version).