Monthly Archives: June 2014

A Mom’s Contract with her Teenage Son: iPhone and Life Lessons

Smartphones are compact computers. With them owners can contact anyone at any time through calling, texting, and private messaging or posting on social media. They enable online search just as any other computer. That is a lot of power at someone’s fingertips, especially for an adolescent who’s beginning to test the limits of growing independence.

Perhaps it was with that in mind that a mom gave her then 13-year-old son a new iPhone but also gave him a contract, a set of rules to follow if he wanted to keep it. This story may be from 2012, but it’s still a good illustration of so many things – internet addiction, smartphone use, responsibility, common sense, social etiquette, and life lessons.

In 18 points, the mother succinctly addresses everything about having access to such a powerful piece of technology beginning with who actually own the phone (she does).

Adolescents, the Internet, & Smartphones

Cyber-bullying, pornography addiction, internet addiction. It’s quite a varied list, but each has been aided by the internet and smartphones just as much as face-to-face interaction and communications have been hampered.

7. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.
9. …Censor yourself.”

It seems like common sense to not text things you wouldn’t normally say in front of that person or someone’s parents. However, that’s exactly what people do – adults and teens alike. This hits right at one of the issues of the internet: the power of anonymity. Even if using your own account, you feel much more empowered to say things to someone else because distance creates an invisible wall that “protects” you. So-called Twitter wars ensue, or comment threads quickly deteriorate as people “trash” or pick on each other.

She also cautions against sending certain private photos. “12. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you.”

“14. Leave your phone home sometimes… It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than…fear of missing out.”

A sign of internet addiction is emotional attachment to technology. Adolescents today have no reference for daily life without a cell phone, so it’s about actively learning to be without it. With internet addiction, people also lose touch with the people and activity around them. Saying, “[#13] Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos… Live your experiences,” this mom takes a shot at social media and the obsession surrounding it.  While she doesn’t mention online gaming, it still fits; the virtual world will never replace reality. “17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you.”

Wilderness Therapy: When the Internet Takes Over

Most people rely on and enjoy technology. That’s OK. For some, the internet becomes a crutch or comfort laying the groundwork for addiction. Research indicates internet addiction is the result of other factors, such as depression. To overcome the grasp of technology, the underlying issues must be resolved. Some adolescents or young adults may find the best help comes through a wilderness therapy program like Pacific Quest.

Pacific Quest’s therapeutic model is based on personalized clinical care with a holistic approach. Each student’s needs are assessed then addressed during individual and topic-specific group therapy time. The underlying issues for their internet addiction can be discovered, discussed, and worked on to be resolved. Pacific Quest wilderness therapy also includes horticulture therapy, which is a tool for getting students active and learning life skills like goal-setting in a calming community setting. Just as with that teenager’s mom, Pacific Quest’s hope is that they provide lessons and skills that can be carried forward into life beyond the program, so students can be successful for years to come.

Parent's Guide to Internet Addiction & Overuse

Escapist Behavior Internet & Video Game Addiction

In recent decades video games have become a fixation with young people, especially as the video game industry expands into the mobile internet space, creating video game addiction. One of the issues of this is it can be very anti-social. It can also cause people to invest a lot of time into something that could be interfering with other goals in life or regular work. In some ways, video game addiction resembles drug addiction in how it consumes a person’s life and time plus how it affects human relationships.

Video Game Lifestyle & Addiction

Playing video games incessantly instead of working or doing something constructive can become a depressing narrative. Video games are not necessarily bad for people, but they can use up a lot of time and begin to take over a person’s life interrupting work, healthy eating, and sleeping. The rewards for investing so much time playing video games are improved scores and competitiveness; the costs are lost valuable time and real connections. Like a drug, at first it takes little to be entertained. It’s a recreation that evolves into an escape from the responsibilities of the real world.

Video games have shortened attention span similarly to television: Both are hypnotizing and an escape. However, video games offer an extra dimension that television doesn’t: participation. Since you become much more involved with a video game than a television show, it’s easy for your eyes to remain glued to the screen for hours. This activity creates physical as well as psychological issues. Its sedentary nature has many effects on our body – from blood circulation to weight gain and body aches, and excessive screen time strains eyes and can cause headaches.

Like Gambling

Though money isn’t necessarily involved, gaming mirrors aspects of gambling as both can potentially engross someone for hours, time that could’ve been used doing something productive or proactive – volunteering, learning something new, working, studying. Even though playing video games requires decision-making, those decisions have no application or effect in the real world. Much effort is wasted to be champion of a game that means nothing to others outside the gaming world, like employers or family. Like gambling, video game or internet addiction can affect personal and professional relationships and also mental and physical health as strain increases. The end result of both can be a very empty feeling.

A Fresh Perspective through Wilderness Therapy

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy health wellness

If you find that you’ve escaped too far into the video game world to the point that it is affecting relationships, school or career, an outdoor wilderness therapy program may help. Pacific Quest in Hawaii uses a holistic approach to point struggling adolescents and young adults toward healthier lifestyle choices and a new life. They learn the principles of Whole Person Wellness: improving nutrition, sleep, movement, and the connection between body and mind – ideas lost in the midst of video game or any addiction.

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy offers individualized clinical care and also incorporates horticultural therapy in its therapeutic model. Gardening places students in caregiver roles. They learn responsibility and goal-setting that produce tangible rewards for their time and efforts – fruits and vegetables that help feed themselves and others, which is unlike the inconsequential rewards of video games. Pacific Quest is guided by principles of healthy community living, which involves collaborating with others to reach personal and public goals. It’s all about learning to fit into a larger group and having access to mentoring, support and feedback. A real community is better than a virtual one. The Pacific Quest experience is considered a rite of passage in which clients leave their old identities behind, and they can replace feelings of emptiness with those of self-worth based on real accomplishment. Escaping in video games is no longer necessary.

Parent's Guide to Internet Addiction & Overuse

Did You Know June Was Internet Safety Month?

Having an internet safety month seems silly because the internet is now an everyday tool with which most of us are comfortable using. We don’t think twice about logging on or the information we may come across. However, it’s important to remember that the internet is powerful in what it enables us and others to do.

To help remind us to be mindful of our internet habits, the National Cyber Security Alliance, a non-profit public-private group focused on cybersecurity awareness and education, uses this time to encourage all internet users to, “Stop. Think. Connect,” each time they log on.

Children, Adolescents & the Internet

Internet safety month is as much about what adults should to protect themselves, their information, and their computers as it is about teaching children about it – from security to the stuff they may find while surfing the net. Understanding better online safety is begins with good judgment and behavior that is exercised daily, all year long.

Now that school is out with several months of summer freedom ahead, children and adolescents will likely be spending much more time online or playing video games. It’s such an easy way to be entertained with all the content, games, and social interaction the Web has to offer. Even if it’s “just Facebook,” it is important for kids of all ages to be aware of their actions. For example, cyberbullying has become an all too common occurrence. Children are verbally abusing each other whether they’re instigating it themselves, succumbing to peer pressure to send hurtful messages, or perpetuating the cycle by sharing the information instead of trying to stop it.

Another reason to teach internet safety is because research, by the Pew Institute or other sources, shows that the vast majority of children have access to the internet in their own homes. Also increasing numbers of adolescents have their own computers and even their own smartphones. Unless parents are vigilant, put safeguards in place, and spend time educating their kids about internet safety, these children have easy access to every corner of the Web.

Internet Addiction and Troubled Adolescents

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy adolescent internet addiction

If your adolescent is spending extra time online this summer, it may be fine. It’s when online activities interfere with emotional, intellectual, and social development that help should be sought. Even if it’s just reading, the endless supply of links can occupy a person for hours, along with social media and online games. Get teens involved in other activities to avoid excessive time online.

Internet addiction is characterized by a dependence on the internet and computers. Internet-addicted adolescents exhibit signs of preoccupation or anxiety when away from their computers and irritation when online activities are interrupted. They forego other hobbies in favor of being online, withdraw from family and friends, and experience physical side effects from hours spent sitting in front of a computer.

Several solutions exist for treating internet addiction – from a self-imposed digital detox to programs designed to help you deal with addictive behaviors. The trouble with most cases of internet addiction is their root in other issues, such as anxiety and depression or low self-esteem. These must be treated along with the dependence on technology in order to see long-term success. Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program has been able to help troubled adolescents and young adults in the journey to understanding and recovery. An individualized clinical care program is key to helping each student whether it’s for internet addiction or adoption issues, etc. A wilderness therapy program gets young people away from the temptation of technology, so they learn to function without it.

Prevention is the best medicine. This summer prepare your kids by teaching them internet safety as well as other activities to stimulate them until next school year rolls around.

Smartphones: Sources of Stress & Internet Addiction

SmartphoneHow do you feel when you get a text message or a new Facebook notification? If you’d say “anxious” or “stressed,” then you’re not alone: Preliminary research indicates that some smartphone users are feeling higher levels of stress due to smartphone activity. Why is this?

Smartphone Ownership

Approximately 91% of American adults own some type of cell phone, and as of 2013, new data (Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project) reveals that the majority of American adults now own a smartphone. As ubiquitous as smartphones have become, it’s possible to see how a trend in reports of related stress and anxiety could develop.

How does this apply to teens and young adults? The average age for getting a first cell phone is now 13. Cell phone technology keeps progressing towards smartphones, and as older generations become incredibly affordable as soon as the latest model is available, it’s easier for parents to get their kids smartphones. Also, teen’s today are tech savvy and to have anything less than a smartphone isn’t “cool.” So if adults are feeling the smartphone strain, then it’s likely adolescents are, too.

The Smartphone-Stress Findings

Though a small sample, one British study included college students, retail industry employees, and government workers. Findings showed that using smartphones for work purposes didn’t cause as much strain as the social obligations that smartphones presented, such as constantly managing social networks. Higher usage for social purposes correlated with increased smartphone user stress. Considering all the social apps, games, and instant access, it’s no wonder that smartphones are increasing stress levels – and self-described internet addiction by nearly two-thirds of teens and over a third of adults.

Wilderness Therapy: Helping Troubled Adolescents and Young Adults Overcome Internet Addiction, Stress

Research about internet addiction, smartphones, and the resulting issues brings up a lot of information and articles. Pathological internet use is beyond spending too much time online. Research relates increased levels of anxiety, withdrawal from friends and family, and a drop in grades or work performance as some of the signs of internet addiction.

More studies are required to find out the true connection between smartphones, internet technology, and stress and anxiety. It may be that people who are already experiencing a form of anxiety or depression turn to the internet for an outlet rather than the internet being the main cause of their issue with depression, anxiety, or stress. Still, it is important to realize these issues are real and definitely play into each other.

Through programs like Pacific Quest wilderness therapy, students are offered a chance to get to the root causes of their issues – from internet addiction to substance abuse, mood regulation issues, and family conflicts – and then begin to understand them. Pacific Quest wilderness program incorporates horticulture therapy, which has been shown to help calm participants, increase self-confidence, and overall life satisfaction. Anxiety and stress are decreased through time spent in and interacting with nature. Another great feature is that troubled adolescents or young adults dealing with internet addiction can have time to get away from the source of their stress. Wilderness therapy is a time for students to put down the technology and smartphones and to get back to themselves.

A New Definition of Self through Social Media

“I share, therefore I am.”
–Sherry Turkle

Social media is still a very new technology, but it has quickly changed a lot about our social lives and even how we think about ourselves. Before social media, people paid attention a bit more to the moment – to the activity and people in front of them. Maybe it was because cell phones weren’t constantly ringing or alerting us of new texts and posts. Cameras were a separate device, and no one took pictures of her lunch – then dinner, coffee, and new shoes – and shared it with the world. Even with the advent of digital cameras, people weren’t compelled to constantly carry one around to capture any random moment.

Now the moment is often about social media activity. How often have we heard, “If it’s not on Facebook, then it didn’t happen”? (Admit it: perhaps even you’ve said it.) Let’s not get it all wrong. Social media isn’t all bad. It is its own industry; people are creating jobs out of blogging or developing social apps. (Snapchat, anyone?)  However, social media sharing shouldn’t be a measure of our activity and involvement in life, nor should the number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers.

Posting, sharing, and tweeting have gained a bit more importance than sharing an experience in the non-virtual world. (How many of us now say, “Stop! I want to take a picture for Instagram!”) It’s all about balance. What happens when we can’t figure out that balance?

Losing Ourselves in Internet Addiction, Finding Life through Wilderness Therapy

New research about the consequences of excessive computer and internet use continually
emerges, along with questions about internet addiction. It all has a basis in reality. People are experiencing higher levels of anxiety and depression among other side effects, and studies show they are related to excessive use of technology – from computers, video games, smartphones, and social media. Also as we – especially adolescents and young adults – define ourselves through social media, depression sets in due to cyberbullying, etc. All in all, Facebook friends and social media “likes,” are not living up to face-to-face connections and the benefits those give us.

Many people know where to draw the line, and they know when they need to take a step back. Unfortunately, some people can get lost in the technology and what it seems to offer. Because of that, internet addiction seems to be the result of people using the internet as a comfort or escape. It comes to define part of who they are since the internet is filling some void in their own lives.

Wilderness therapy can help those who can’t seem to break the internet addiction cycle and who are dealing with deep issues related to their internet over-use. Wilderness therapy is different than other forms of therapy because of its use of nature as a therapeutic source. When incorporated properly, nature and nature-based therapy has calming and curative effects.

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy excursion

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy is one such program. Horticulture provides one means students interact with nature. By working in organic gardens, students learn to create true connections as they work together to build and tend to the gardens. These connections are further deepened in group therapy sessions, where they learn to share, listen, and contribute to face-to-face conversations about mutual struggles and experiences.

Before social media, we talked to others about our day. Now that’s truly sharing. Pacific Quest can help troubled adolescents and young adults redefine themselves in a healthy way.

Constantly Connected: Effects of Internet and Smartphones on College Students

Spurred by the observation that college students are seemingly glued to their smartphones, Kent State University researchers conducted a study of 500 university undergraduate students to determine what effect, if any, smartphone use may have.

The study equally represented freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and the group reported a wide variety of majors. For the survey, researchers recorded students’ daily cell phone use as well as clinical measurements of their anxiety and life satisfaction (the technical term for happiness). Lastly, researchers also looked at students’ school records for their cumulative grade point average (GPA). The results?

Cell phone use showed statistically significant relationships to GPA, anxiety, and happiness. Cell phone use had a negative correlation to GPA but was positively related to anxiety. Findings also showed a positive relationship between happiness and GPA and – understandably – a negative relationship between happiness and anxiety. In layman’s terms, those of the 500 students who reported higher smartphone use had a lower GPA, tended to be more anxious, and have lower life satisfaction when compared to the students who used their cell phone less frequently. (It would make sense that bad grades would make someone feel anxious and unhappy.)

Why did the researchers choose to look at GPA, anxiety, and happiness? Well, they’re all necessary for student success. So, if a student is spending too much time fiddling with her smartphone, then she may be more likely to have lower grades and suffer from anxiety.

The Age of Smartphones and Internet Addiction

Smartphone use is essentially internet use because the internet and the technology used to access it are what give smartphones their computer-like abilities. An important note is that internet addiction is different than excessive internet use. While excessive use can have negative consequences, as shown by the Kent State study and other research, internet addiction presents other unique issues:

  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Neglect of personal hygiene &/or personal responsibilities, such as work, school, or household chores
  • Loss of interest in other hobbies, etc.
  • Anxiety when away from computers/internet
  • Anger and irritation when internet activities are interrupted

What Can Help – Digital Detoxing, Wilderness Therapy

Some people are able to overcome their technology and internet addiction themselves. This may be especially true when there is mainly a matter of over-use. However, some research is showing that internet addiction is rooted in other issues, such as depression. This means that people, such as troubled adolescents and young adults, are turning to the internet to escape issues that are bothering them. In this case, a simple digital detox, the setting aside of computer and internet technology completely for several days, may not work.

Wilderness therapy may be able to help the young people who have developed an internet or video game addiction because they’re not sure how to properly deal with other issues in their lives. Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program incorporates traditional individual and group therapy into its therapeutic model as well as horticulture therapy. This unique blend of intervention in a safe community setting enables troubled young adults to open up about their struggles.

A wilderness program like Pacific Quest offers young people, like college students, an opportunity to get away from the source of their troubles (smartphones and internet) plus the resources to get help, understand underlying issues, learn how to cope in a healthy way, and develop life skills. The internet – and smartphones – is a fact of modern life. If we know more about ourselves, we can learn to balance technology and be happier and healthier.

Wilderness Therapy: Walk in Harmony with the World

When it comes to internet addiction in teens, an inner transformation must happen first in order for an outer change to occur. Nature supplies the classroom with the greatest impact for engaging and changing teens in the deepest way. At Pacific Quest we provide opportunities for teens to take their lives into their own hands and out of the grip of internet addiction.

How Wilderness Therapy Can Help Teens Struggling with Internet Addiction

Pacific Quest wilderness therapy for adolescents

The therapeutic benefits of wilderness therapy for teens struggling with internet addictions include nurturing the ability to trust one’s community through the experience of teamwork, developing a healthier relationship with the issues of control, taking responsibility for one’s actions and how those actions impact others, increasing feelings of self-esteem, joy and pleasure, and establishing a deeper connection with the natural world. One of the significant goals of our wilderness therapy program is to provide teens with the opportunities and skills to deal with difficult situations, so they can draw upon these experiences in the recovery process and long after program completion.

The addiction treatment aspect for internet addiction, video game addiction, or computer addiction lays in the obvious removal of the technological dependence and replacing it with healthier habits. In addition, those teens addicted to games, Internet, or computers often forget to take even the most basic level of care for themselves. That’s why our philosophy of health and wellness is routed in the principles of naturopathic medicine. An understanding and routine of basic physical health are the foundation of Pacific Quest. Proper nutrition and diet, plenty of exercise and adequate sleep are emphasized and supported. Adolescents also explore the body-mind connection as an integral part of this foundation.

For decades wilderness therapists and outdoor educators have been incorporating the healing and restorative powers of nature into programs designed to help troubled teens overcome addictions and personal challenges, to learn how to regain control over their lives, and to put themselves back on the path to health and happiness.

Wilderness therapy is a unique alternative to long-term residential schools and treatment programs. It has proven to be highly effective in dealing with many teen related issues, behavioral struggles and abuse problems.

For more information, please call us: 808.937.5806, or visit http://www.pacificquest.org.