What makes technology so irresistible? As it becomes more prevalent in our society it is vital to look at long term consequences, and how we can positively control the effect on future generations?
The following is an article written by the New York Times featuring a new book titled, “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked,” by Dr. Adam Alter, which focuses on these issues.
Why We Can’t Look Away From Our Screens
In a new book, “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked,” the social psychologist Adam Alter warns that many of us — youngsters, teenagers, adults — are addicted to modern digital products. Not figuratively, but literally addicted.
Dr. Alter, 36, is an associate professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University who researches psychology and marketing. We spoke for two hours last week at the offices of The New York Times. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity.
What makes you think that people have become addicted to digital devices and social media?
In the past, we thought of addiction as mostly related to chemical substances: heroin, cocaine, nicotine. Today, we have this phenomenon of behavioral addictions where, one tech industry leader told me, people are spending nearly three hours a day tethered to their cell phones. Where teenage boys sometimes spend weeks alone in their rooms playing video games. Where Snapchat will boast that its youthful users open their app more than 18 times a day.
Behavioral addictions are really widespread now. A 2011 study suggested that 41 percent of us have at least one. That number is sure to have risen with the adoption of newer more addictive social networking platforms, tablets and smart phones.
How do you define “addiction”?
The definition I go with is that it has to be something you enjoy doing in the short term, that undermines your well-being in the long term — but that you do compulsively anyway.
We’re biologically prone to getting hooked on these sorts of experiences. If you put someone in front of a slot machine, their brain will look qualitatively the same as when they take heroin. If you’re someone who compulsively plays video games — not everyone, but people who are addicted to a particular game — the minute you load up your computer, your brain will look like that of a substance abuser.
We are engineered in such a way that as long as an experience hits the right buttons, our brains will release the neurotransmitter dopamine. We’ll get a flood of dopamine that makes us feel wonderful in the short term, though in the long term you build a tolerance and want more.
Do the designers of the new technologies understand what they’re doing?
The people who create video games wouldn’t say they are looking to create addicts. They just want you to spend as much time as possible with their products.
Some of the games on smart phones require you to give money as you play, so they want to keep you playing. The designers will build into a game a certain amount of feedback, in the same way that slot machines offer an occasional win to hold your interest.
Not surprisingly, game producers will often pretest different versions of a release to see which one is hardest to resist and which will keep your attention longest. It works.
For the book, I spoke with a young man who sat in front of his computer playing a video game for 45 consecutive days! The compulsive playing had destroyed the rest of his life. He ended up at a rehabilitation clinic in Washington State, reSTART, where they specialize in treating young people with gaming dependencies.
Do we need legislation to protect ourselves?
It’s not a bad idea to consider it, at least for online games.
In South Korea and China, there are proposals for something they call Cinderella laws. The idea is to protect children from playing certain games after midnight.
Gaming and internet addiction is a really serious problem throughout East Asia. In China, there are millions of youngsters with it, and they actually have camps where parents commit their children for months and where therapists treat them with a detox regime.
Why do you claim that many of the new electronic gadgets have fueled behavioral addictions?
Well, look at what people are doing. In one survey, 60 percent of the adults said they keep their cell phones next to them when they sleep. In another survey, half the respondents claimed they check their emails during the night.
Moreover, these new gadgets turn out to be the perfect delivery devices for addictive media. If games and social media were once confined to our home computers, portable devices permit us to engage with them everywhere.
Today, we’re checking our social media constantly, which disrupts work and everyday life. We’ve become obsessed with how many “likes” our Instagram photos are getting instead of where we are walking and whom we are talking to.
Where’s the harm in this?
If you’re on the phone for three hours daily, that’s time you’re not spending on face-to-face interactions with people. Smart phones give everything you need to enjoy the moment you’re in, but they don’t require much initiative.
You never have to remember anything because everything is right in front of you. You don’t have to develop the ability to memorize or to come up with new ideas.
I find it interesting that the late Steve Jobs said in a 2010 interview that his own children didn’t use iPads. In fact, there are a surprising number of Silicon Valley titans who refuse to let their kids near certain devices. There’s a private school in the Bay Area and it doesn’t allow any tech — no iPhones or iPads. The really interesting thing about this school is that 75 percent of the parents are tech executives.
Learning about the school pushed me to write, “Irresistible.” What was it about these products that made them, in the eyes of experts, so potentially dangerous?
If you were advising a friend on quitting their behavioral addictions, what would you suggest?
I’d suggest that they be more mindful about how they are allowing tech to invade their life. Next, they should cordon it off. I like the idea, for instance, of not answering email after six at night.
In general, I’d say find more time to be in natural environments, to sit face to face with someone in a long conversation without any technology in the room. There should be times of the day where it looks like the 1950s or where you are sitting in a room and you can’t tell what era you are in. You shouldn’t always be looking at screens.
If you feel like your teen or young adult has trouble using technology in a healthy way contact Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.
If someone challenged you to a day without technology how do you think you’d do? The morning of March 3rd through the morning of March 4th is National Unplugged Day – and your chance to put yourself to the test!
The idea behind the challenge is to rest, reconnect with those around you face-to-face, and to recognize the ways our lives are immersed in technology.
At TAG Counseling we challenge you to participate and unplug for 24 hours. After you do, spend some time as a family evaluating the differences you felt that day – did you like having more time to connect on a personal level? Did you feel like you were missing out? How much time do you think you saved not being on your devices?
If you feel like your teen or young adult has trouble using technology appropriately contact Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.
Valentine’s day and the month of February are usually thought of as a time to celebrate romantic love. But are we teaching our young people that love isn’t just a feeling – it’s an action that we can demonstrate in both small and big ways daily?
As part of a month-long celebration of love we want to give some suggestions on how to show love to those around you and turn love into a verb at your house.
If you feel like your teen or young adult has trouble giving or receiving affection in a healthy way contact Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.
February is known to be the month where we celebrate love. But Valentine’s day doesn’t just have to center on romantic love. Instead, we can focus on all the ways we can make the people we care about feel loved.
Dr. Gary Chapman is known for his book The 5 Love Languages where people can learn how to show affection so that it is received. His article below, also found here, talks about each of the languages and helps parents figure out which language their teen speaks.
The 5 Love Languages
On a 0-to-10 scale, how much do your parents love you?” That was the question posed to 13-year-old Mark. Without batting an eye, he answered, “Ten.”
When asked how he knew they loved him that much, he said, “By the way they treat me. Dad is always bumping me when he walks by, and we wrestle on the floor, and Mom’s always hugging and kissing me.” Mark feels loved by his parents’ warm, caring touches, revealing that his primary love language is physical touch.
After more than 20 years of marriage and family counseling, I am convinced there are only five basic languages of love. Of these five, each teen has a primary love language, one that speaks more loudly and deeply to him or her. If a parent fails to speak this language adequately, the teen will not feel loved, regardless of other expressions of love. (View Dr. Chapman’s free quiz at Love Languages and Your Teen.)
Visualize that inside every teen is an emotional love tank. When the teen’s love tank is full — that is, she genuinely feels loved by her parents — the teen can make her way through adolescence with minimal trauma. But when the teen’s love tank is empty, she will grapple with many internal struggles and will typically look for love in all the wrong places. Therefore, discerning your teen’s love language is essential.
Here is a brief description of each of the five love languages.
Hugs, kisses and tender touches are given in abundance when a child is young. However, some parents feel more awkward about touching as their child enters adolescence. If a teen’s primary love language is physical touch, those appropriate touches are no less important during the teen years than they were in the earlier years.
Words of affirmation
Using words to encourage and affirm is at the heart of this language. When a toddler is learning to walk, we stand just two feet away and say, “That’s right! Come on; you can do it.” And when that toddler falls, we encourage her to get up and try again. Why do we forget the power of affirming words when kids become teens?
When 14-year-old Melissa broke her arm, words of affirmation gave her the assurance she needed. “I know that my parents love me because while I was having such a hard time keeping up with my school work, they encouraged me. They said they were proud that I was trying so hard.”
This love language involves giving your teen undivided attention. For some teens, regardless of what you’re doing together, nothing is more important than when a parent gives focused attention.
Mindy’s primary love language is quality time, and at 17 she still feels secure in her parents’ love. “They are always there for me,” Mindy says. “I can discuss anything with them. I know they will be understanding and try to help me make wise decisions. I enjoy doing things with them, and I am going to miss them when I go to college.”
Giving and receiving gifts
Some parents speak this language almost exclusively and are often shocked to find that their teen does not feel loved. Although gift giving is not the love language of all teens, gifts speak loudly for many.
When asked how she knew her parents loved her, Michelle, 15, pointed to her blouse, skirt and shoes. She said, “Everything I have, they gave me. In my mind, that’s love. Because they have given me far more than I need, I share things with my friends.”
Michelle not only feels loved from receiving gifts, but she also expresses love to others by giving gifts.
Acts of Service
Parents are continually doing actions designed to assist their kids, but if these acts of service are to be expressions of love, they must be done with a positive, caring attitude.
Brady, 13, lives with his mother and brother. It’s apparent that Brady’s primary love language is acts of service when he says, “I know my mom loves me because she sews the buttons on my shirt when they fall off and she also helps me with my homework. She works hard so we can have food and clothes.”
Few things are more important for parents than discovering and speaking their teen’s primary love language. The teen needs to receive love in all five languages, but focusing on the primary love language will fill the love tank much faster and more effectively. Consider your teen’s love language. If his language is not obvious, my online assessment quiz may help you. To find this free quiz, search “Love Languages and Your Teen” on ThrivingFamily.com.
We love God because He first loved us. The same principle is true in human relationships. Our children are far more likely to love us, and others, if we have effectively communicated love to them.
If you feel like your relationship with your teen or young adult needs help, or that they are seeking affection in unhealthy ways, contact Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.
Who is part of the millennial generation? What makes them successful – or unsuccessful? Watch this captivating video that helps us understand this highly talked about generation:
If you have a millennial in your life who is struggling, call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss treatment options for their situation.