There has been a buzz in the media lately about a study conducted by Baylor University and Seton Hall. They found that materialism and impulsivity drive much of the cell phone behavior observed among teens and young adults. Average students checked their phones 60 times a day, sent 109 text messages, and received 119 messages. Compulsively checking the phone for messages and experiencing withdrawals when you don’t have it mirrors the symptoms of other addictions. Another study by the University of Michigan explored the question of whether or not excessive texting hinders students from learning proper social skills. Among teens, 75% have cell phones, and the average teen sends 60 texts per day – some send as many as 300 texts per day. While technology can be a blessing, it can cause problems when used without limits. As your family uses technology for the right purposes, here are a few dangers signs to watch.
- Overstimulation. Excessive time spent on media will complicate a student’s ability to concentrate. Entertainment is mindless; it requires no critical thinking. Students can become conditioned to quick changes – television’s rapid images and the internet’s high speed. This makes listening to a teacher, solving problems, and staying on task more difficult. Children, and adults alike, become conditioned to a way of thinking – or not thinking – that they carry everywhere with them. When living a life of over-stimulation, it’s unfeasible to believe you can concentrate and focus on demand.
- Excessive Use. Do you find your kids spending time in front of the television that should be spent doing something productive, like homework? Are they sleepy all day because they have been texting in bed until late at night? While technology and media can be used for educational purposes and productive communication, they still have an addictive quality that often results in overuse. For example, the internet can be used for research, but one could easily spend too much time researching and not enough time completing the other aspects of an assignment. It’s hard enough for adults to discipline themselves; imagine how hard it is for students to fight the pull of Facebook, ipods, and texting when they should be working. They need parental oversight and instruction in time management. Also, don’t overlook the need for kids to drop their tech-toys and play outdoors, play with real toys or games, and converse with other kids (I don’t mean via Skype or Facebook). Tech-addicted kids don’t benefit from those experiences, and they often miss out on enjoyable and beneficial experiences.
- Nomophobia. This is a new term defined as the fear of being unconnected with people via your cell phone. Time Magazine conducted a survey and reported that 84% said they could not be separated from their cell phone for one day. A Maryland University study 74% of people said they would panic if they lost their cell phone. Cell phones are convenient, and for some, mobile phones are a necessary tool for daily business. But addictions are dangerous, especially in kids. Many kids suffer in their social skills because their communication skills have been shaped by their compulsive texting. When you observe a decline in person-to-person social skills, it’s past time to reduce mobile phone usage.
- Invasion of the Family’s Privacy. Do you want your child Skyping their friends from inside their bedroom? When they become teenagers, that will present an even more crucial scenario. Do your children know what they are and are not permitted to post on Facebook about your family? Does your child know what should and should not be videoed in your home and posted for others to see? These are guidelines that will have to be formed and modified as children enter new stages of life and as new forms of technology enter your home.
- Unfiltered Internet. If you have unfiltered internet and your kids freely surf the web, be assured your kids have seen objectionable content. The absence of a filter is not a risk, it’s a sure disaster. Your children will be exposed to content you do not approve. Not necessarily because your kids will be looking for it, but because it will find your kids. Don’t forget that smartphones have unfiltered internet, and kids can easily borrow a friend’s phone and view content your home filter would not permit.
- Mischievous Friends. Some are tempted to discuss topics and use language in texts that would never be said verbally for fear that their parents would hear them. Facebook can also become a bad influence when others begin posting and boasting about things that you find offensive. This requires parents to supervise communication and make sure their child’s contacts provide good relationships.
Alexander Pope once wrote in a poem, “A little learning is a dangerous thing, drink deep or taste not the Pierian Spring.” Apply this to your knowledge about your child’s technology usage. If you have let technology enter your home (we all have), then ignorance is detrimental. The Scriptures tell us that Satan is “like a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour.” Don’t be passive, be alert. Jump in, be informed, instruct, and supervise.