Tech: The New Cholesterol



Does anyone remember when butter became public enemy number one? I remember my grandmother complaining about how grandaddy couldn’t eat eggs and bacon anymore because it was so bad for him. Something he’d grown up doing. Over the last 30 years or so cholesterol and saturated fat became dirty words. Americans had grown accustomed to enjoying and over indulging themselves with unhealthy foods and were paying the price. Something needed to be done. And it’s a war being waged today. But cholesterol isn’t the only enemy lurking in our homes.

Our next “cultural revolt” needs to be against technology. Research keeps piling up and pointing to the detrimental effects these techno gadgets have on our brains and social functioning[1]. The overuse of smartphone technology has been linked to poor academic performance, stress, and less satisfaction with life (Samaha & Hawi, 2016). Video gaming has gone from a fun 80’s past-time to cheesy government PSA levels. And let’s not get started on texting and driving. We’re also witnesses to the harmful effects of social media and cell phone use among our teenage and college age populations[2] in the forms of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts (O’Donnell & Saker, 2018). And in another sector of tech, violent video games are directly linked to and proven to have a contributing factor in violent and aggressive behavior (Scharrer, G., S., & C., 2018). Most every parent I know, including myself, has experience with video game “detox”. You ask them to put the controller down and it’s like you’ve physically assaulted their person. Their brains are literally screaming the moment they unplug[3]. If that’s not addiction I don’t know what is.

I haven’t seen a “This is your brain on video games” commercial yet, but I do think we’ve reached those levels. In his book, The Tech-Wise Family, Andy Crouch outlines the difficult decisions sitting before us as parents:

“Figuring out the proper place for technology in our particular family and stage of life requires discernment rather than a simple formula…But almost anything is better than letting technology overwhelm us with its default settings, taking over our lives and stunting our growth in the ways that really matter.”

We have the same problem with technology that we have with cholesterol. We’ve grown so accustomed to the convenience and easy entertainment that we don’t feel it slowly killing us. And instead of silently clogging our arteries, it’s clogging our brain functions with its very own version of techno plaque.

Think about it this way. Eating a donut every now and then isn’t going to kill you. But constantly gorging yourself day in and day out is another story. Would you ever allow your children to sit for hours at a time at a low budget, all you can eat buffet? Translate that image to technology. How many hours a day do our children game or watch YouTube? I believe that as parents, we are often complicit in the crime. We spend just as much time on Facebook, watching our favorite DVR’d show, or on Netflix. Not only do we need to require better from our children, we must also demand better from ourselves. Crouch points this out by articulating that technology is so convenient it actually discourages discipline by giving us the world at our fingertips. We can see anything we want to see, and we don’t even have to get off the couch to do it. The warning is clear. The moment we stop being users of technology and become consumed by technology, we will lose the battle for our families and our children.

So if you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution. Think about tech. And think about picking up a copy of The Tech-Wise Family, it will be worth your time.

References

Crouch, A. (2017). The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place. Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBooks. Kuss, D. J., Pontes, H. M., & Griffiths, M. D. (2018). Neurobiological Correlates in Internet Gaming Disorder: A Systematic Literature Review. Front Psychiatry, 166. O’Donnell, J., & Saker, A. (2018, March 19). Teen Suicide is Soaring. Do spotty mental health and addiction treatment share blame? USA Today. Samaha, M., & Hawi, N. S. (2016). Relationships among smart phone addiction, stress, academic performance, and satisfaction with life. Computers in Human Behavior, 321-325. Scharrer, E., Kamau, G., Warren, S., & Zhang, C. (2018). Violent Video Games Do Contribute to Aggression. In C. J. Ferguson, Video Game Influences on Aggression, Cognition, and Attention (pp. 5-21). Cham Springer.

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[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/groundbreaking-study-examines-effects-of-screen-time-on-kids-60-minutes/?fbclid=IwAR2fA5J2Co2svBFDBcCGwpwvk9TLTjaj5FCUcGvp68rwlWZh9eJ-xMX-bPc [2] Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death ages 10-34  (Crouch, 2017) [3] Listen. Our brains are basically massive gelatinous sponges. Every aspect of our environment effects how they operate, react, and develop. And if you don’t take my word for it, consider this: “Altogether, 853 studies on the neurobiological correlates were identified on ProQuest… The included studies suggest that compared to healthy controls, gaming addicts have poorer response-inhibition and emotion regulation, impaired prefrontal cortex (PFC) functioning and cognitive control, poorer working memory and decision-making capabilities, decreased visual and auditory functioning, and a deficiency in their neuronal reward system, similar to those found in individuals with substance-related addictions” (Kuss, Pontes, & Griffiths, 2018).

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