In a world that has become so reliant on cell phones and the Internet, many parents are wondering when digital use can become problematic.
The digital age we live in provides instantaneous communication methods, whether it be a quick text, e-mail, Facebook or Twitter message.
While many use the advanced technology to simplify their lives, the question many of us must ask is when does this habit become an addiction, says Dr. Marvin Krank.
“People can become obsessed,” said the UBCO professor of psychology.
To help the community better understand the issues and risks, Krank is bringing the topic, called process addiction, to Vernon Secondary School Thursday at 7 p.m.
“It’s so immediate and so available that we can use it whenever we want,” said Krank.
But, he warns, the use of such technology is often being substituted for more positive activities.
“People can use Facebook to keep in contact with friends and family – great. People can use Facebook to substitute for a real social life – problematic.
“They can interact in a much safer way through Facebook and the Internet,” said Krank, adding, “they avoid dealing with the real problem.”
There are many examples of process addiction: gambling, Internet use, video games, love, sex, exercise, work and even compulsive spending.
“It’s a set of potentially pathological behaviours that expose people to mood-altering behaviours and dependence,” said Krank.
He points to work as an example.
“Are you working so many hours that you are neglecting your family?”
When it comes to youth, Vernon School District’s substance abuse prevention counsellor Doug Rogers says process addiction is causing concern both in the schools and at home.
“I have so many parents phone me, ‘I can’t get my kid off the video game,’” said Rogers, as an example, admitting that his son would play video games all day too, if he let him.
Then there are the problems associated with cell phones.
“It’s cut into the educational part of the day,” said Rogers, as youth are routinely seen face down texting.
“You just look at the top of their heads now.”
Just try to take any teenager’s phone away from them and Rogers says you will see how they crave it and ‘need’ it.
“So when does the ease of communication become problematic? It is becoming problematic.”
So like any addiction, process addiction can cause problems in our lives.
Krank suggests that parents concerned about youth showing signs of process addiction should try to determine what the activity is substituting for.
“What you need to do is push to more social activities.”
As a first step, Rogers suggests parents stop texting their kids and actually call them, so they can hear what’s going on in the background and hear any concern or anxiety in their child’s voice.