JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - August 2019
Technology: Useful Tool or Addiction?
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
Recently a colleague shared that he and his wife were now homeschooling their three children. He cited his concerns about the widespread use of technology in schools and their approach to education as not ‘classic.’ As a person who was an elementary educator having a more classical approach to educating each child in the humanities, arts and sciences, without the aid of much technology, I found his ideas intriguing.
Beth Lipoff in a recent article in the Kansas City Star 913 Section (7/13/19) looks at the issues technology presents for today’s students. “Smartphones, tablets and other tech devices are here to stay. But striking a balance between the virtual world and the real world can be tough, especially when you’re setting boundaries for kids.” She detailed the story of two parents who have created “Stand Together and Rethink Technology” in response to the pressures to give their children phones and other tech devices.
They became aware, as many others have, that too much screen time can lead to poor sleep, increased loneliness, self-image issues and lacking emotional presence. The issue of addiction to technology also contributes to a more sedentary life style effecting physical health and fitness, vision issues, injuries caused from lack of attention, deficits in social development, and depression.
The parents, Krista Boan, Tracy Foster, and Brenda Walden developed a curriculum on how to set limits to technology and how and when to use it. They help parents and students understand how one can get hooked on the attention and feedback one gets through social media, how one can misinterpret what it means, and how parents are also connected more to their phones than to their children. They have had requests from all over the world and were featured in a special report by Diane Sawyer on ABC. Now they are focused on developing a pilot program for Johnson County.
As parents or adults using technology for business, social, and other personal uses, it would be helpful to look at one’s use of technology. Though addiction to different types of technology isn’t yet recognized as a disorder on its own, the problem is definitely on the radar of mental health professionals.
Step one in AA is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or any behavior or substance) and that our lives had become unmanageable.” My belief is that any behavior or substance that begins to erode and damage the quality of our health, our relationships or other aspects of our lives, becomes a problem that needs to be addressed.
There are some assessments created to identify technology addiction. To name a few: The Compulsive Internet Use Scale, The Mobile Phone Problematic Use Scale, The Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale, and the Multidimensional Facebook Intensity Scale. Shainna Ala, Ph.D., wrote in a Psychology Today online article about questions you could ask yourself if you have concerns:
Have you noticed an increase in how often you use your device?
Have you felt guilty about how often you use your device?
Do you experience an urge to use your device?
When using your device, do you experience a lift, thrill, or discomfort?
Are you in the ‘zone’ when you re using your device?
Have your tried to reduce the amount of time you use your device? Success?
Have your loved ones complained about your use?
If yes, have you continued your usage rate regardless of their complaints?
These questions might help you determine whether you have a problem. The Hazelden Betty Ford Organization defines technology addiction as “frequent and obsessive technology-related behavior practiced despite negative consequences to the user of the technology.”
Video and computer games, the internet, smart phones and lifestyle technologies, and social media give us a variety of access points that can promote dependence on technology and negative consequences for children and adults.
It might be good to do an inventory of your technology use and assess whether it is healthy, productive and contributing to your life and relationships. If you have children the STaRT training could be useful. Are you managing the tool or is it managing you?
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Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to