Technology: Are Parents to Blame for Addiction?editor
Increasingly, parents bemoan their children’s addiction to screens, computers, phones, you-name-it. But, in my experience, nine times out of ten, those same parents are just as addicted. The lovely wee toddler in the above video is obviously mimicking mum. So, should parents set an example by, say, not actively using their phone/computer at home, keeping it for urgent use only… Or is that unrealistic, these days?
On the other hand, is it just a case of getting used to technology being everywhere and in use at all times? I’ve even seen adults using their phones during Mass, apparently accessing hymns and/or prayers, whatever. Personally, I’m in the “I can’t believe it” category when I see that, but, as I say, maybe it’s a case of getting used to having these screens around and just managing life in this Brave New World. If so, maybe we should stop sending kids the message “don’t do as I do, do as I say…”
‘Don’t do as I do, do as I say’ is, at the end of the day, the very essence of hypocrisy and therefore a non-starter from an educational or, for that matter, from any other point of view. One of the most striking features of Christ’s preaching is how his words are confirmed by his actions, and vice-versa. This is the standard to which his disciples must aspire.
That said, like it or loathe it, the ‘new’ screen-based technologies are here to stay. They are by now not so much part of the culture as the culture itself, and we are just going to have to learn to live with them as best we can. I can see the tremendous risks they pose to our humanity, but I use these technologies liberally in my own life and feel I would be poorer without them. Today, for example, I took in my fill of news from around the world between my Ipad and my Iphone, and my dinner was the fruit of two recipes I found on Google. And this is before we even mention email which has become as indispensable domestically as it is professionally. That said, I emphatically don’t do social media, for a whole host of reasons I won’t go into here.
My advice to parents would be to attend first and foremost to the family. Talk with your husband/wife. Talk with your kids. Encourage them to talk among themselves. If you don’t already have one, buy a table around which to have at least one shared meal a day into which screen based technologies, including TV, are not allowed to penetrate. Stress the importance of real relationships and social interaction over the digital variety. Not least, teach the old adage about sticks and stones being able to break bones and the innocuous nature of names, especially when hurled digitally.
It seems to me that the essence of a life well lived is our capacity to transcend the solitude of the individual essence into which we are born. This means opening oneself up to the world around us, to relationships with our fellow human beings, and ultimately to God. Anything that interferes with this dynamic is profoundly dangerous. And herein lies the threat posed to our humanity by the new screen-based technologies. I don’t quite know why (I suspect the reason is supremely spiritual), but hours passed surfing the web have a hollowing-out effect which leaves us feeling empty. We must take the new technologies for the good they possess and reject them for the bad. Easier said than done, I know, but Christians are called to discern even in this.
I agree with a lot of what you say, It’s inevitable that technology is here to stay and we need to just get used to it. Saying that, I don’t think I’d get used to seeing phones being used at Mass. The light would distract me, plus what if texts come through – on my phone they show at the top of the screen even if I’m looking at something else, so that’s a “no, no” as far as I’m concerned.
I loved the video – the child is hilarious, the ankles crossed is obviously copying her mother, LOL! It does show how they are watching what adults do. It’s very interesting.
I loved the video as well, LOL! That was one really cute little girl!
I think priests should post a notice reminding everyone to switch off their phones. I think it’s a disgrace to see them being used, including for readings, during Mass.
I agree with Leitourgos, especially about the family meal every day, where no devices are allowed. That’s a very good discipline.
I also absolutely agree with Margaret Mary about no phones being allowed in Mass. I’m amazed anyone even has to say that!
Good points made by Leitourgos. Technology is like so many other things – a good servant, but a bad master. I just use what I want to use, when I need to use it. I don’t have a smartphone, and don’t spend endless hours on my laptop, which is mainly used for functional things like banking, shopping etc and a bit of blogging (especially CT!) but even then I visit very few blogs and websites. Just a few tried and trusted ones that interest me. I don’t do social media at all. It’s just a question of self-discipline for adults, but I am getting increasingly fed up with the fact that more and more people seem to automatically assume that everyone has a smartphone, for example: a friend of mine bought something online the other day on his laptop and they sent a weblink to his mobile phone as an extra security precaution, to make sure it was him, but his phone (like mine) is a normal mobile phone, and the text message was asking him to tap the weblink on the screen which would confirm his ID, which he couldn’t do, because it’s a normal phone – not a touch screen one. He had to phone the company and explain, so they changed it and now, if they want to do a check, they have to email his laptop and he can click on the link from there to confirm his ID. It is getting increasingly difficult to get by without a smartphone, but NWO types are always going to encourage slavish dependence on technology.
With children, I think it’s more complicated. I’m just over 60 so all this technology wasn’t available when I was a child. I think it’s about 50/50 with parents and children. With children it’s peer pressure – they’re ‘nobodies’ unless they’re online and into all the latest social media trends and are ‘liked’ by all and sundry. There is even an expression ‘FOMO’ – which I believe means ‘Fear of Missing Out’. With parents, I think many of them don’t want their children to be ‘exiled’ from their friends via the online community as it would make them ‘different’, and also there is the added bonus that they can contact them whenever needed and keep tabs on them to a certain extent if necessary. As Leitourgos said, it’s here to stay and I think it’s just a question of striking a balance.
“A good servant but a bad master” is a perfect description of the situation. If we learn to use technology in a limited way, it can be very useful, but when you find yourself thinking of it first and foremost every morning, where your Morning Offering should be, it’s time to admit yourself to a clinic, LOL!
Like you and Westminsterfly, I agree that technology, like so many other things is a “good servant but a bad master”. It is too easy to become addicted to the use of smartphones, computers etc. They are a useful tool, but true it has its limits. And true Bernie, making your Morning Offering should be first on the list of what to do!
I have a simple mobile phone, to make and receive calls only. No smart phone for me that is too much hassle.
I am a bit more concerned about the use of technology among kids, given the way even adults (even MPs!) can’t seem to stay away from porn.
I think it’s all too easy to think “strike a balance” and everything will be OK. I see that argument and up to a point, I agree. However I think there are very real dangers for young people getting used to phones etc and going in for exploring more than they should. The danger, I am sorry to say, is to their souls, and not a lot of parents think about that. I know parents who are never off their phones, sneaking a look even in company, and I call that real addition. How are they ever going to get their children to be “balanced” in their use of phones if they are addicted themselves, and I’m sorry, but sneaking a look in company every few minutes is addiction, as far as I am concerned.
I definitely think this screens addiction is already out of hand. You can’t go anywhere without seeing everyone looking at screens and pecking away at them. It’s ridiculous.
If parents don’t stop doing that, then they can make all the excuses they like, but they will be responsible for the health damage to their children’s eyesight and brains down the line.
There’s no doubt that the masses are hooked on these devices. You’d hardly believe that the world managed without them until very recently.
Definitely, if parents are hooked, they can’t set ground rules for kids. As the wee soul in the video proves, kids learn as much by example as by anything they’re told, especially when it comes to behaviour.