Irresistible, might look like it’s going to make you panic or want to throw your phone out the window, but it won’t. It will, however, inspire you to consider your relationship with technology and find solutions to help keep technology in its proper place.
The author, Adam Alter, teaches us why some of our habits are more addicting than others and why we might become addicted in the first place. His examples range from heroin addiction to nail biting.
Addiction can mean a lot of different things. Often we think about addiction to substances, but many of our addictions are behavioral. More and more research has been done in recent years around behavioral addiction. “Just as drugs trigger dopamine production, so do behavioral cues.” Dopamine levels may spike for a video game addict firing up a laptop or for a social media fanatic needing to check Instagram updates every hour.
I like Alter’s explanation of the difference between substance and behavioral addictions. He says, “where substance addictions are nakedly destructive, many behavioral addictions are quietly destructive acs wrapped in cloaks of creation. The illusion of progress will sustain you as you achieve high scores or acquire more followers or spend more time at work, so you’ll struggle ever harder to shake the need to continue.” Behavioral addictions can sneak up on us. That’s why we have to have a pre-emptive plan for our families.
Does this mean that if we, or our children, play video games or use social media, we are destined to become addicts? Definitely not. But we need to be mindful of how much time we are spending doing those things in relation to the time we spend with real people and on creating a life that matters. This will look different for each of us.
So, how do we actually pull that off and help our children to create good tech habits now?
This is where my two cents come in and why I think we can outsmart technology addiction:
- Alter talks about the importance of our environment. 95% of the Vietnam vets who became addicted to heroine, (a highly addictive drug), during the war quit using it when they returned home. I know this return was not easy, and some turned to other addictions, but the research says that because they were no longer in the place where they developed the habit, they were able to shake it more easily. Conversely, many heroin addicts who go to a treatment center and then return back to their same home and environment, become addicted again.
How can we create an environment that discourages technology addiction and encourages us to connect with one another? One of the best places to start is by establishing boundaries with your family and setting up an environment that promotes human connection and screen-free activities. Where will you use devices? Do you have a family charging station? A designated office area? Our family held several brainstorming discussions to come up with our own Family Technology Plan. This helped us to create an environment that prioritized what really mattered.
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- Encourage dialogue and help your kids and teens make decisions ahead of time. Alter calls this blunting “unavoidable temptations.” (He talks about endless streaming and Netflix binging. So interesting!) For our purposes, we want to help ourselves and our kids avoid falling into binge-using our devices and know what to do when inappropriate content pops up on a screen.Let’s talk to our kids and teens about making decisions ahead of time. Once they own their own device, how much time do they want to spend on video games or social media if they choose to use either?We can encourage our kids to make personal commitments ahead of time about what they will and will not with their devices. This might be something as simple as deciding that they won’t engage in a heated argument over text or it might be to have a default activity as a distraction if someone shows them an inappropriate image.As parents, we want our children to know they can turn to us if they feel like they don’t have control over their technology use.
At the end of the day, most of us want to be able to use our devices without letting them take center stage in our relationships, work, and our time. I believe it’s possible with some planning and dedicated effort!
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