Seminar Date: July 23, 2014

Of One Mind presented a special parent seminar “Technology is the Virus: Has Your Family Been Infected?” this past Wednesday night. Richard B. Cohen LMFT, MAC, CCBT, CDVC was joined by Dr. Don Grant who specializes in both Addiction and Media Psychology.   The duo led a discussion on how cell phones, the internet and computers have become the new drug of choice for many families.

Richard and Don outlined the risk factors for a technology addiction.   People who are already suffering from anxiety, depression, or under a great deal of stress are strong candidates for developing a technology addiction. These folks may be self medicating with their technology in an attempt to escape from negative feelings.   Likewise someone who lacks proper social support may engage in social media to feel like they have friends when in fact they truly need to work on improving their social skills.

Richard and Don discussed symptoms that may show there is already a problem with technology addiction. Some questions for parents to ask themselves are:

–          Is your teen or young adult withdrawing from friends and family and/or isolating to their rooms to use technology?

–          Does your teen or young adult become angry when you ask them to shut it off?

–          Is the person not able to stop using the device and/or staying online longer than intended?

–          Does your child have trouble completing non-technological tasks such as cleaning their room or getting home work completed?

Internet addiction creates problems that are similar to other addictions in that it can affect relationships, make a person spend more time by themselves, and thus create social anxiety. Don compared technology addiction to an eating disorder in that the goal isn’t to eliminate technology, but rather to find a way for the person to use it successfully so that they still navigate the other areas of life.

Richard shared that the faster the internet speed, the more damage that can occur to a young person’s brain.   The only good news here is that most of the damage can be reversed using a variety of techniques including CBT, EMDR and DBT.

One parent asked if using the internet in 2014 is just the same as a 20th century teenager being on the phone all night long.  Don explained that phone usage is way more interactive as you actually have another human being on the other end listening to you and reacting live.  This is vastly different than using Social Media or texting where the user puts something out into the universe and then waits to see if there will be a response.

Both Richard and Don agreed that it’s a vastly different world for folks now born into this technology. A young person may grow up thinking that Skyping is just as effective as meeting in person. In fact Don shared a story about a retail store that is hiring employees not based on a resume or an interview but rather how many “followers” the person has.   This led to a discussion on the self esteem issues we all have to deal with on social media. Popularity contests and people not responding the way we want them to. Or even worse, they don’t respond at all.

Of One Mind has created an instrument to test for internet and technology addiction and is now performing assessments. For more information please contact 310-479-9065 ext 100.