Digital Distractions

In January this year the World Health Organization (WHO) in its draft of the 11th revision of International Classification of Diseases (ICD)—the international “standard diagnostic tool for epidemiology, health management and clinical purposes,” included “gaming disorder” as a problem related to mental health. ICD is a globally accepted standard to study the health trends and statistics. Its analysis and suggestions are taken seriously while planning health strategies.

According to ICD, Gaming Disorder is a pattern of gaming behaviour with “impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation

or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” Although WHO suggested that gaming disorder is affecting small number of people, it also warned that people taking part in gaming “should be alert to the amount of time they spend on gaming activities, particularly when it is to the exclusion of other daily activities, as well as to any changes in their physical or psychological health and social functioning that could be attributed to their pattern of gaming behaviour.”

There is little doubt that Internet addiction has dire effects on our minds and bodies—on our ability to focus, consistency, sleeping patterns etc. It tends to increase hypertension, violence, frustration, anxiety and self-centredness.

A complete black out of digital devices is neither possible nor healthy.

Several countries saw the signs of times, and have taken necessary measures. Take South Korea for example, where a law known as “Shutdown Law” or “Cinderella Law” which bans children under 16 from accessing online games between midnight and 6 am has been implemented. However, the rule does not affect mobile games or several games accessed through social networking sites. Sometimes, such restrictions increase frustration and push one to look for other ways of seeking gratification. On the other hand, a complete black out of digital devices is neither impossible nor healthy. Here are a few tips to help your children learn to tame this monster:

Talk about Technology

The key to proper use of technology lies in education. What harm digital addiction can bring in our lives need to be discussed at our homes and in our schools. Talk to your children about their favourite video games, the websites they visit and videos they watch. Help them think of offline alternatives to have the same kind of fun.

Disciplining Our Digital Desires

Discipline is what you do everyday to achieve your goal. Several parents adopt a disciplinary approach to technology—allotting periods for using phones and other digital devices. If possible learn different ways to monitor the websites, password, history etc. of your child’s online sessions. Set time limits to your child’s usage; particularly avoid late night sessions. Try to follow the same schedule that you carve out for your children.

Prioritise Real Over Virtual

That human interaction is more valuable than technology is not a secret anymore. Encourage your kids to avoid using digital devices when with others; let them use them in their own time. Lead your children by example to put aside their smartphones and other devices during family time.

Schedule a Sabbath

In addition to regular schedule, also plan a family sabbatical from virtual world once a week or a month. Take a day out sans devices to refresh and rejuvenate.

Technology is a good slave, but a bad master. Paul talks about once being slave to sin, but now being slave to righteousness. He goes through drastic disciplinary measures in order to keep himself focused on heavenly things (1 Cor 9:27). Being addicted to technology may be a new phenomenon, but being addicted to pleasure is not. If our generation needs to take a disciplinary approach to technology, it will also need to see parents who are committed to have right focus in their own lives.

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