Young People Ask

Am I Addicted to Electronic Media?

What do these three people have in common?

“I love, love, love texting! I think it’s the greatest thing ever. I guess you could say that it has taken over my life.”​—Alan. *

“My mom bought a TV for my room, and I was ecstatic! Instead of going to sleep at night, though, I stayed up for hours on end watching it. I chose to watch TV rather than spend time with family and friends.”​—Teresa.

“For a time, I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without wondering if someone had posted something for me on my Web page. If I woke up in the middle of the night, I had to go online. Any chance I got, I updated my blog.”​—Anna.

Which of the above three youths would you say is describing addiction to some form of electronic media?

Alan Teresa Anna

WHEN your parents entered their teens, TV and radio were the main forms of electronic media. Back then, phones were just phones​—they only carried voice transmissions and likely were anchored to a wall. Sound hopelessly old-fashioned? A girl named Anna would say so. “My parents grew up in the technological dark ages,” she says. “They’re just now figuring out how to use some of the features on their cell phone!”

Today you can take a call, listen to music, watch a show, play a game, e-mail your friends, take a picture, and access the Internet​—all on a single device you can carry in your pocket. Because you’ve grown up with computers, cell phones, TV, and the Internet, you may think nothing of using them all the time. Your parents, though, may feel that you’re addicted. If they express concern, don’t write off their comments as being out of touch with reality. “When anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it,” said wise King Solomon, “that is foolishness on his part.”​—Proverbs 18:13.

Do you wonder why your parents might be concerned? Take the test that follows to see if you show signs of addiction to some form of electronic media.

Am I Addicted?’

One encyclopedia defines addiction as “habitual repetition of excessive behavior that a  person is unable or unwilling to stop, despite its harmful consequences.” In view of that definition, all three youths quoted at the outset of this article are or have been addicted to electronic media. What about you? Look at the breakdown of that definition below. Read the quotes, and see if you have said or done anything similar. Then fill in your answers.

Uncontrolled behavior. “I would spend hours playing electronic games. They robbed me of sleep and dominated my conversations with others. I isolated myself from my family and became lost in the imaginary worlds of the games I played.”​—Andrew.

In your opinion, how much time each day is it reasonable to spend using electronic media? ․․․․․

How much time do your parents think you should spend? ․․․․․

What is the total amount of time each day that you actually spend texting, watching TV, uploading pictures and comments onto a Web site, playing electronic games, and so on? ․․․․․

After looking at your answers above, would you say that your use of electronic media is excessive?

□ Yes □ No

Unable or unwilling to stop. “My parents see me texting all the time and tell me that I’m doing it too much. But compared to other kids my age, I hardly text at all. I mean, compared to my parents, sure, I text more than they do. But that’s like comparing apples to oranges​—they’re 40 and I’m 15.”​—Alan.

Have your parents or friends said that you spend too much time on some form of electronic media?

□ Yes □ No

Have you been unwilling or unable to control your use of that form of media?

□ Yes □ No

Harmful consequences. “My friends text all the time​—even while driving. How unsafe is that!”​—Julie.

“When I first got my cell phone, I was always calling someone or texting someone. It was all I did. It damaged my relationship with my family and even with some of my friends. Now I notice that when I’m out with my friends and talking to them, they constantly interrupt and say: ‘Oh, hold on. I have to answer a text message.’ That’s one reason I’m not closer to those friends.”​—Shirley.

Do you ever read text messages or send them while driving or during class?

□ Yes □ No

When you are conversing with family or friends, do you constantly interrupt to answer e-mails, phone calls, or text messages?

□ Yes □ No

 Is your use of electronic media stealing time from needed sleep or distracting you from studying?

□ Yes □ No

How to Be Balanced

If you use some form of electronic media​—whether a computer, a cell phone, or another device—​ask yourself the four questions below. Applying the Bible-based advice and following a few simple dos and don’ts will help you to stay safe and in control.

1. What is the content? “Fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.”​—Philippians 4:8, Today’s English Version.

Do keep in contact with friends and family, and share upbuilding news and viewpoints.​—Proverbs 25:25; Ephesians 4:29.

Don’t spread harmful gossip, share immoral text messages or pictures, or watch morally degrading video clips or programs.​—Colossians 3:5; 1 Peter 4:15.

2. When am I using it? “For everything there is an appointed time.”​—Ecclesiastes 3:1.

Do set a limit on how much time you will spend sending and receiving calls and text messages, watching programs, or playing games. Out of respect, turn off your device while at important events, such as meetings for worship. You can always respond to messages later.

Don’t allow your use of electronic media to interrupt time you have set aside to spend  with friends and family, to study, or to engage in spiritual activities.​—Ephesians 5:15-17; Philippians 2:4.

3. With whom am I associating? “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.”​—1 Corinthians 15:33.

Do use electronic media to strengthen the ties you have with people who encourage you to develop good habits.​—Proverbs 22:17.

Don’t fool yourself​—you will adopt the standards, language, and thinking of those you choose to socialize with through e-mail, texting, TV, video, or the Internet.​—Proverbs 13:20.

4. How much time am I spending? “Make sure of the more important things.”​—Philippians 1:10.

Do keep track of how much time you spend using electronic media.

Don’t ignore the comments of your friends or the direction of your parents if they say that you’re spending too much time with some form of media.​—Proverbs 26:12.

Speaking of using electronic media in a balanced way, Andrew, quoted earlier, sums up the matter well: “Electronics are fun, but only for a brief amount of time. I’ve learned not to allow technology to become a wedge that separates me from my family and friends.”

More articles from the “Young People Ask” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/​ype

[Footnote]

^ par. 4 Some names in this article have been changed.

[Box/​Pictures on page 25]

WHAT YOUR PEERS SAY

“My parents used to tell me, ‘We might as well glue your hands to your cell phone, the way you use it!’ At first, I found that funny, but then I realized that they were serious. Now I limit my texting, and I have never been happier!”

“I used to feel that I had to check the Internet for messages every time it was available. I was neglecting my homework and other studies. Now that I’ve cut back, it’s like a tremendous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Moderation is the key.”

[Pictures]

Jovarny

Mariah

[Box on page 26]

“I WAS A SOCIAL-NETWORKING-SITE ADDICT”

“A few years ago, my family moved. I wanted to keep in touch with my friends, and they invited me to join a photo-sharing site. That seemed like a great way to stay connected. I would be talking only to people I knew, not strangers, so what could possibly go wrong?

“At first, all worked well. I would go online once a week to look at my friends’ pictures and post comments and read their comments on my pictures. But I soon became obsessed. Before I knew it, I was on the site all the time. Since I was online that much, people who are friends of friends began to notice, and they invited me to be their friends. You know how it is​—a friend says that this person is good fun, so you accept. Before you know it, you have 50 online friends.

“Soon, I found that I was constantly thinking about being online. Even when I was on the Web site, I was thinking about when I could get back to check it next time and that I needed to post new pictures. I’d read a comment here, post a video there, and before I knew it, hours would fly by.

“It took about a year and a half, but I eventually realized that I was an addict. Now, though, I tightly control my use of the Internet and focus on making friends face-to-face with people who I know share my moral standards. Some of my friends don’t understand my actions, but I’ve learned my lesson.”​—Ellen, 18.

[Box on page 26]

WHY NOT ASK YOUR PARENTS?

Sometimes you might be surprised when you strike up a conversation with your parents about entertainment. “Once my dad suspected that one of my music CDs was bad,” says a girl named Cheryl. “I asked him if we could sit down together and listen to the entire CD. He agreed. Afterward, he told me that he found nothing objectionable in it!”

Below, write a question you would like to ask your parents about electronic media.

[Box on page 27]

A NOTE TO PARENTS

Does your adolescent spend too much time online, send and receive too many text messages, or have a better relationship with his MP3 player than he has with you? If so, what can you do?

You could just take the device away from your child. But do not write off all electronic media as evil. After all, likely you use some form of electronic media that was not available to your parents. So instead of simply confiscating your adolescent’s device​—unless there is compelling reason to do so—​why not use this as an opportunity to train your son or daughter to use electronic media wisely and with moderation? How can you do that?

Sit down and discuss the matter with your adolescent. First, state your concerns. Second, listen to what he or she has to say. (Proverbs 18:13) Third, work out practical solutions. Do not be afraid to set firm limits, but be reasonable. (Philippians 4:5) “When I had a problem with texting,” says Ellen, mentioned earlier, “my parents didn’t take away my phone; they set guidelines. The way they handled it has helped me to be balanced in my use of texting, even when my parents aren’t there to monitor me.”

What if your son or daughter reacts defensively? Do not conclude that your counsel has fallen on deaf ears. Instead, be patient and give your adolescent some time to think about the matter. Chances are, he or she already agrees with you and will make needed adjustments. Many youths are similar to a teen named Hailey, who says: “At first I was offended when my parents told me I was addicted to my computer. But later, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they were right.”

[Picture on page 27]

Do you control your electronic devices, or do they control you?