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iPad Addiction or a 4 year old who doesn’t like ‘No’?

 joined Will Faulkner on his daily show on Midlands 103FM today to discuss the story of a child in Britain, a 4 year old, who has been treated by the eminent psychiatrist ​Dr Richard Graham, an expert on technology addiction. I first became aware of Dr Graham’s work in 2009,  after Sweden’s Youth Care Foundation [Stiftelsen Ungdomsvård] described World of Warcraft as “more addictive than crack cocaine”. 

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I joined Will Faulkner on his daily show on Midlands 103FM today to discuss the story of a child in Britain, a 4 year old, who has been treated by the eminent psychiatrist Dr Richard Graham, an expert on technology addiction. I first became aware of Dr Graham’s work in 2009,  after Sweden’s Youth Care Foundation [Stiftelsen Ungdomsvård] described World of Warcraft as “more addictive than crack cocaine”. Dr Graham called on Blizzard Entertainment, the company that makes World of Warcraft, to waive or discount the costs associated with joining the game to facilitate a proposal whereby therapists would communicate with effected or at risk-players via the player’s familiar fantasy world; and familiar it certainly was to some gamers, the story of a Swedish teenager who collapsed in November 2008 having played for 20 or more hours made global headlines.

“‘With kids, gaming is an obvious issue. But overall, technology use could be a potential problem”

— Mike Kyrios, Brain and Psychological Sciences Research Centre : Sydney Morning Herald.
Dr Graham’s innovations in clinical psychiatry are encouraging. For some time we spoke about the contribution that technology was making to medicine, but the quid pro quo is now becoming apparent. With smart-phone use likely to move to 90% and tablet use mushrooming every time I look up the IDC numbers illness, conditions that we hadn’t imagined are afflicting users, young and old.

Mary Aiken, Cyberpsychologist and Research Fellow at the RCSI has written and spoken extensively about the effect of Social Media on young people. I imagine soon we will see extensive research on carpel tunnel and RSI injuries sustained because of over-use of tablets – we’ve taken the tablet to our heart, and our sofa and our bodies have yet to tell us how well designed we are for long-term use. The effects, short and long term of new technology on our vision and sleep patterns have yet to be ascertained with certainty and the long term effect on cognitive function is also still being debated, perhaps there’s even a genetic angle to Internet Addiction.

I’ve read some experts who ask the question if those suffering have a pre-disposition to addiction of any sort? An interesting point and I believe young people’s exposure to technology is the first opportunity any pre-dispositions may have to present.

It’s difficult to limit the time or usage that children use their technology for. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommends parents limit children’s screen time  two hours or less, per day.  But as WIll Faulkner asked me today, how do we do that with tablets in use in Education, apart from any personal devices they have themselves? As a parent you can exercise control; it appears to have become increasingly unpopular to say no to children these days, but responsible parenting remains the single best tool in combatting overuse of technology, and mitigating its effects. There is app based help you can use like Game Time Limit for Parents on iOS or KIDO’Z on Android which allow you to set time and content limits, but the first step is common sense – if there charger never seems to be out of the wall-socket, there’s a clue that you need to get to grips with this before it’s time to call the doctor.

Some advice from Dr Richard Graham as published in the useful Vodafone publication, ‘Too Much of A Good Thing’.

KNOW
Find out how long the young person spends online.
MONITOR
Ask yourself, is the time they spend online growing rapidly? Is it interfering with ordinary life?
BALANCE
Organise activities and opportunities to balance out time in front of a screen – don’t let online time mushroom.
SUPPORT
Get support from partners and other family members when trying to reduce online time.
HOLIDAY
Organise weekends and holidays to allow for more offline activities.

External links & references

  1. How to spot a screenager : Dr Richard Graham
  2. Too much of a good thingg : PDF 783kb
  3. World of Warcraft is as addictive as cocaine: 2009
  4. ‘Internet addiction’ to be classified as mental illness : rt.com
  5. Gray matter abnormalities in Internet addiction
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Education

Social Media & The School Curriculum

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Today I spoke with Will Faulkner on Midlands Radio on the topic of the changes at ask.fm‘ and also on the Slane photos incident which sparked a quick reaction from Facebook and Twitter to prevent access, and sharing, of photos of a 17 year old girl of an explicit nature that were retweeted or posted creating a viral incident in a matter of hours. I’ve written at length recently about internet trolls following the harassment of Caroline Criado-Perez, and in doing so reflected at length on my own experience twenty years ago with online chat, forums and digital communities.

Today I suggested to Will that the answer or at least the start of an answer, may lie in our school systems.

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Education

McAfee’s Digital Divide Survey : Parents in The Dark

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It’s no surprise to read in McAfee’s Digital Dividesurvey that teenagers are hoodwinking their parents, that’s unlikely to stop any time soon. The difference for teenagers now though, is the internet never forgets. The ten percent of teenagers surveyed who posted an embarrassing photo, or the twelve percent who used foul language may have a long time to reflect on their embarrassment. And that embarrassment could follow them to a new school, college or job. Online, the world is watching and you can be judged by your past behaviour for a lifetime.

Digital learning initiatives like tablets in schools and emerging MOOCs, Massive Online Open Courses are transforming education and the potential for learning so it’s disturbing to read in McAfee’s survey that a third of parents have resorted to taking away their teens mobile devices or computers, counter-productive in the extreme. Neither is avoidance the answer. Parents appear to be in denial and exhibiting a trust that was not granted to my generation and platitudes from teenagers should be treated cautiously as half of teenagers are doing things online that their parents would not approve of.

When I was a student Civics was taught to imbue good citizenship but as we transition to a society with a growing population of digital natives there is a greater need for good digital citizenship, I would suggest even a dedicated course, ideally in the Junior Cycle curriculum. We don’t just need to teach children how to write apps and study using digital technology, we need to teach them how to be safe and sensible, and how what they say and do online can impact themselves and others emotionally, socially and even professionally. Parents must accept responsibility for the development of their children as digital citizens by providing supervision and taking an active, but unobtrusive, part in their children’s online lives. I’m not suggesting a digital version of peeking in the teenage diary, but parents generally, are interested in who their children are friends with and where they are after dark, and they should be interested in what their children are doing online. Installing monitoring software on a child’s computer would be a step too far and may even hinder the development of a teenager’s technical ability, but open discussion in the classroom and at home brings a sense of reality to digital life that is often lacking in the consciousness of teenagers who treat so much of online interaction in a way akin to playing a video game, allowing them to dissociate themselves from offensive behavior, sometimes with tragic outcomes.

Good initiatives like McAfee’s Online Safety for Kids are a great start, but there’s some distance to go and the school curriculum and parents must be part of the answer to the development of the teenage digital native. Human nature being what it is, teenagers will behave better when you keep an eye on them, because they know you’re watching, and their parents should be watching, because the rest of the internet is.

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McAfee’s Digital Deception Survey

A fifth of teenagers have accessed inappropriate content online that disturbed them, according to ‘Digital Divide,’ a new study conducted in Ireland by McAfee, the world’s largest dedicated security company. The study also found that while Irish parents believe their children are doing enough to protect themselves from online dangers, that this is not the case.

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In today’s Irish Independent I wrote an opinion piece, Young Web Users Beware, The Internet Never Forgets where I advanced the idea that we definitely need a Digital Civics on the school curriculum, aimed specifically at 11 to 15 year olds. On Midlands Today, with Don Delaney, we chatted some more about the idea, and how parents seem to be in the dark about what they’re children are doing online.

A fifth of all Irish teenagers have accessed inappropriate content online that disturbed them, according to ‘Digital Divide,’ a new study conducted in Ireland by McAfee, the world’s largest dedicated security company. The study also found that while Irish parents believe their children are doing enough to protect themselves from online dangers, that this is not the case.McAfee Pressroom
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