Sunday, December 1, 2013

Internet Addicted?

Power Down
So there is no formal classification for internet addiction, since the psychological jury is still out on whether it is an actual disorder or not.  

I thinks it's safe to say that I wouldn't fall into any formally defined category of internet addicted.  Not while there are people who are so transfixed by internet usage as to neglect to bathe, eat or properly care for their children.

Let's be clear.  I can't imagine much that would interrupt my desire for food.

However if addictions can be (and they have been) defined as pursuits undertaken to the detriment of daily life.  Well that is an altogether more broad boundary. 

I was a relatively late adopter of internet usage.  In 2007 I still had never seen anything on You Tube, I was still on dial up and wasn't on Facebook.

In 2008 I got broadband and all of that changed.  This coincided with the birth of my first child meaning no more work and plenty of long hours at home in the company of a pre-literate but somewhat tyrannical companion.

Since then my internet usage has steadily increased.  

The way I see it this isn't entirely my fault.  It used to be that the daily paper would be hanging around the kitchen bench to peruse in moments of respite.  If I wanted a recipe I would consult a book, or a weather forecast the radio.  But how quickly I have become dependent on the internet as the always available font of all knowledge.  Or the suppository of all wisdom as it were.

There have been times in the last few years where I have seen my internet usage infringe on the peaceful happenings of my everyday life.  Times when I have been angry with the kids and ushered them out of the study because I "needed" to check my emails or was "busy" working watching iView/ updating Facebook on the computer.

I don't see myself as device addicted.  I love being able to travel without my phone.  Will happily leave my computer behind.  And can even live without TV, if I have a good book.

But I can see that I have become somewhat dependent on internet usage.  For me it became my down time.  Cup of tea and a bit of a vague out while the kids were otherwise occupied.  Nothing wrong with that.  Except when I really started defending it, and feeling affronted if they encroached upon it.

Also I found myself constantly trying to retreat to the computer throughout the day.  So I'd turn it on in the morning for my fix of news over my breaky and leave it on, intermittently checking my emails throughout the day.  And while this might only take one minute or less it was a constant distraction as I found myself ducking in to check my emails every time I passed my computer - and quite unnecessarily.

We are pretty strict in our house about screen time for the kids.  I mean we go through periods when people are sick or overtired when we turn to it more often than usual, but mostly the kids are only allowed to watch an hour or so of telly a few times a week.  And if they play on the computer, which is rare, that counts towards their screen time quota.

It occurred to me a while ago though that what I do is way more important than what I say when it comes to the kids and their screens.  

So telling them they are only allowed to watch a little TV a few times a week is great. But it is completely undermined if I am constantly retreating to my computer, cup of tea in hand, or obsessively checking my emails multiple times a day, or batting them distractedly away while something on my screen takes my attention away from them.

All that is showing them is that screens are entrancing, relaxing, important (more important than they are?). And none of that is good.

So a few new rules have been adopted, and they are not for the kids, but for me.  Now I only turn my computer on when the kids are watching TV.  So their screen time is my screen time.  And guess what?  The world hasn't ceased to be.  I haven't missed any important emails by not cheking it every five minutes.  And I haven't much missed the unending Facebook status updates and cat videos either.  

Essentially I have limited my computer time to those times that my kids are either watching telly or in bed.  Which in actual fact is still plenty.  I just don't need any more than that.  In fact I could even challenge myself to use it less.

Except for the fact that more and more of our non-computer-based lives are starting to become dependent on the internet.  Not only news, recipes, weather, but also maps, music, photos, camera, dictionary, calendar, diary, banking, bill paying - the list goes on.  All this is now dependent on (or at least easier with) an internet connected device.

Still, I reckon it's worth the effort.  It's worth the minor inconvenience in order to model restrained behaviour around screens and the internet to my kids.  Because soon enough they'll be wanting to lock themselves away, disconnect themselves from me in order to connect themselves to their devices.  And I want them to at least have seen the example of restraint.

Because none of us really bought it when our parents told us to "Do as I say, not as I do", did we?

Do you have rules around screen time at your place?

Listen to: Radiohead Paranoid Android (Live)

Image Licensed Under Creative Commons


  1. I have an 8pm Internet curfew... that way I make sure I have a couple of hours of quality time each night with my partner (who doesn't use social media of any kind)...

    Sometimes, if I feel I need a break, I'll also have a "no SM weekend" - sometimes you need time in the real world!

    1. That sounds pretty great JJ. I am finding it a juggle though, managing the blog - I mean I don't miss the computer for using it less, but having the time I can use it locked into the kids timetable is a bit restrictive. I guess I'll get used to that though. And it's worth it I reckon.

      Thanks for the comment.