Guest post provided by Sponsor, Recovery Café
National conversions surrounding kids and screens tends to focus on the negative impacts while many of us understand a deeper complexity with our use and reliance. We do not aim to make a blanket statement that technology is harmful to kids, however, as with life, it is inevitable that children will have a negative interaction online or may develop an unhealthy relationship with it at some point. Our intention is to provide resources and education for parents preparing themselves and their children for that day.
Our increased reliance on and general integration of the internet has raised the risk of young people developing a process addiction. A process addiction is the compulsion to continually engage in an activity or behavior despite the negative impact on the person’s ability to remain mentally and/or physically healthy and functional in their home and community. Many of us associate addiction with substance use; however, other types, such as behavioral or process addictions can also be detrimental to our lives, like addictions to screens, video games, pornography, and online gambling.
Children, in particular, are learning to cultivate their own sense of boundaries, time management, and self-control and are provided more freedom and opportunities as they grow up. We aim to highlight addictive behaviors that your child may at some point experience
- Screen Time: Screen time addiction can develop from overusing technology and have a substantial negative impact on our lives. Uninterrupted scrolling, TV time, and mindless app hopping can become problematic for the development of other necessary skills that benefit children such as time management, socialization, and physical activity. As adults, it can be challenging to disengage and our children emulate us, yet do not have the prefrontal cortex development necessary to set and stick to limits for themselves.
- Internet Gambling: Gambling addiction, also called problem gambling or gambling disorder, is an addiction that refers to any type of gambling that compromises a person’s lifestyle. Online games or casinos have made gambling more accessible, especially to younger people who are no longer hindered by a legal age restriction at a brick-and-mortar location. Gambling can take the form of poker games, betting on sports, redeeming a lottery ticket, going to an online casino, and more. Many video games blur the line between gaming and gambling, introducing young kids to its addicting rewards.
- Online Gaming: Although online games have been around for a long time, current users are increasingly faced with games that are designed to be complex, detailed, and compelling enough to keep users playing at higher rates. These addictive qualities, or “hooks,” that work to keep users engaged include role-playing components or relationship building with other players that create an emotional attachment and challenges such as high scores or levels. Young children are particularly susceptible to these hooks and can struggle with self-discipline to put the controller down.
- Pornography: Porn addiction, a subset of sex addiction, is an addiction to viewing pornography that interferes with one’s life and personal development. Online pornography isn’t just an addiction problem but a cultural problem as well. Sexually explicit material that was once hard to find is now a mouse click away. We are inundated with spam, pop-ups, and ads that blatantly advertise adult websites, and it is so ubiquitous that we can easily bump into it, even when we aren’t even looking for it or don’t necessarily want it. Kids who are beginning to explore their sexuality are often drawn into the new sensations of puberty and the taboo yet have not learned how to set appropriate boundaries. This is closely connected with the rise of online chatrooms and sexting.
We hope to encourage parents and caregivers to open the door to honest conversations, explaining realities of a complex internet landscape and take away the taboo that they may experience on the internet. This could look like conveying your expectations about gambling to your kids, discussing differences between chance and skill-based games, and considering not gifting lottery tickets. It could also look like discussing pornography, knowing that your child is likely embarrassed to talk about it and may not really understand what they are viewing. Taking away the mystery around sex to protect them from being thrown off guard when inappropriate content (inevitably) appears on their phone or computer screen.
At Recovery Café, we are a community committed to the holistic wellbeing of all people. One of the growing concerns for parents across the United States is the impact their child’s interaction with screens has on their lives. While the research is still developing, the majority suggests that forming healthy boundaries with technology at an early stage sets your child up for the most success. To this end, with the support of the Snoqualmie Tribe, we have created an initiative to help parents/caregivers navigate the world of kids and screens. We have brought together experts and offer statewide webinars which include helpful information, tools, and support for families. The final virtual event is this Thursday, December 16th, with Jo Langford, a masters level therapist, author, and sex educator for tweens, teens, and parents in the Seattle area.
We invite all Washington State PTA leaders to share this with their PTA and broader parent/guardian communities. We hope to see you there.
All events will take place virtually between 7-8:30pm with time for Q+A
Check out our website to learn more: https://recoverycafe.org/supporting-your-child-in-their-internet-use/