Media Monday – Screen Addiction Tearing Families Apart

children and technology

It seems a little hypocritical to talk about screen addiction as I sit here writing on a screen for you to read, on a screen. Awkward. But perhaps this is something we all need to hear, including me, or perhaps even especially me!

As I sat on the computer yesterday my husband placed a newspaper article in front of me entitled “Screen addiction is wrecking families”. Subtle. The article written by Susie O’brien from the Adelaide Advertiser discusses how we often spend more time on screens than with each other. It’s not that we don’t want to spend time with our families – it’s just that we are addicted to screens.

Addiction is defined by impaired control over choices, a preoccupation with certain behavior and continued behavior despite consequences. Too much screen use, just like too much alcohol, has long term consequences for our families despite the immediate rewards.

“Technology overuse is an insidious mainstream addiction that is destroying families”

– Mr Stephenson, pastor and counsellor.

I have no doubt that despite having ‘regulations’ in place technology is still overused in my family. This both surprises and upsets me given all I’ve researched about the impact of these devices on children and their experience of childhood. I desperately want my children to experience a childhood full of imagination and creativity so why do I find this so difficult? The only way that I can explain it is that I’m addicted and my children are learning from me.

Hello. My name’s Tara and I’m addicted to screens.

It’s hard. Ipads and computers have their benefits. What’s so good about screens? I love to read so I really enjoy sitting down once the kids have gone to bed and reading a few blogs. What’s not so good?  Checking emails and facebook on my phone whenever I get the chance (yes, I finally joined the 21st century and received a phone for Christmas).  Similarly, we use the ipad and computer for educational apps for the kids which are fantastic but then I don’t like them playing too many games in their free time. It’s not so much the games in itself, it’s the fact they want to play games more than they want to do anything else. That’s not right. Shouldn’t kids WANT to play outside? Surely, we shouldn’t have to force them to get outside or do something active that involves their brains? And dare I suggest that if children have trouble motivating themselves to do anything that doesn’t involve a screen then perhaps they themselves are addicted?

Melbourne psychologist Andrew Fuller said kids are “addicted to technology like human beings are addicted to oxygen. We know that when kids play video game, their dopamine is stimulated which makes it hard for them to walk away”.

In this case it would be fair to say that most children are addicted to screens in some form or another – even if it’s just the TV.

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that screen addiction is having an impact not only on kids but on the family unit. Psychologists are even suggesting that this is such a concern that we create a new mental condition called “Internet-Use disorder”. This seems a little far fetched but clearly, this form of addiction has consequences much like any addiction and deserves to be acknowledged as such.

If screens are that addictive, and given the nature of addiction, can we ever really keep our screen use under control? Or are we destined to struggle with this for the rest of our lives?

What do you do to manage screen time in your home?

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