Tips and Advice

A Smartphone Can Connect to Internet Addiction

For many of us it’s fair to say that we compulsively check our smartphones. This compulsion grows the more we use and fuels that urge to instinctually monitor it.

In the waiting room of a doctor’s office. On the bus on our way to work. Laying in bed before falling asleep. Even while at dinner with family or friends. Our smartphones have literally become an extension of ourselves, another limb if you will. Smartphone and Internet Addiction - wilderness therapy programAs many individuals who lost limbs can contest to sensations of ghost pain or the belief that their limb is still present, we cling or grab to our smartphone in fear that we will lose it or for the comfort that it is still with us.

The new trend in our society is sitting with friends at a restaurant, their presence and company is no longer enough. Groups of individuals sitting across from one another do not converse, they peruse their smartphones to find much more engaging stimuli or to discover what other individuals are participating in.

Checking our phone, email, Facebook or Twitter has become almost as natural as breathing. In a recent study, it has been found that 70% of users say they check their smartphones within an hour of getting up, 51% say they check continuously while on vacation, and 44% say they would experience a great deal of anxiety if they lost their phone and couldn’t replace it for a week. It’s apparent many of our habits and social eccentricities have changed since the arrival of the smartphone.

Are you a smartphone addict?

Here are a few indicators that you’re addicted to your smartphone:

  • You can’t go five minutes without checking your email or social networking account.
  • You have more than five email accounts.
  • You respond to messages in the middle of the night.
  • When your inbox says, “No new messages,” you refresh your account just to make sure.
  • Checking email constantly provides you validation that you’re “Always on top of things.”

Managing your smartphone use

We understand for some occupations and individuals that giving up your smartphone all together would spell disaster or would be simply ridiculous. Here are a few steps to help control your usage:

  • Be conscious of the situations and emotions that spark you to use your smartphone. Is it boredom? Loneliness? Anxiety? Insecurity?
  • Be strong when your phone alerts you. You don’t always have to answer it.
  • Be disciplined about not using your device in certain situations (such as when you’re with children, driving, or in a meeting) or at certain hours ( for instance, between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.).
  • Be independent with how you interact with your smartphone. Go out for a walk or spend time in nature without the company of your device.

Smartphone addiction in teens and young adults

One of the fastest and largest groups to become addicted to their mobile devices are teens and young adults. They spend much of their time on social networking sites, messaging one another and finding themselves easily bored in certain situations. Much of this exposure and time spent on a smartphone can lead to them having an internet addiction.

A successful way to manage and control this behavior is with a wilderness therapy program. Nature can often provide the best remedies and open an individual’s eyes to what is true, real, and necessary.

At a wilderness therapy program, teens and young adults learn to be more independent and self-aware, qualities of themselves they may not have been able to notice and achieve without the distraction of a mobile device constantly in their face. Smartphones and Internet usage are kept to a minimum, allowing students to focus on themselves. At Pacific Quest, individual and group therapy sessions help teens and young adults unearth and understand those feelings and emotions that drive them to use their smartphone in an unhealthy manner.

Take a moment and listen, no it’s not your phone alerting you, it’s nature and your life calling. Answer, text or message. Regain your life and independence back, and make a different kind of connection.

Internet Addictions: A mind without distractions?

Forget about “Reboot”, “Restart”, or “Refresh”…  for many of us, it is seriously time to click on “ Shut Down”! Digital distractions are frying our brains, making focusing on tasks fuzzy, and affecting what most young people don’t realize is a mind-body connection.

Critically acclaimed American novelist and essayist, Jonathan Franzen, who famously wrote much of his book “The Corrections” wearing a blindfold and earplugs to reduce disruptions is quoted as saying “ It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction”. Even supposed “casual” Internet users know all too well the distractions of those unsolicited tweets, email pings and hilarious YouTube videos… Browsing the web for school Disconnect from the Internet - Internet Addictionreports, research- even as a social networking guru or video game master – can end up taking up enormous amounts of time from our day, because when we start looking on the Internet for one thing, it’s easy to get lost for 20 minutes or more! It’s part of the far-reaching and addictive quality of the Internet…the hours that seem to some how speed by in the blink of an eye while we become immersed, zombie-like, in the wearisome world-wide-web.

As it turns out, learning how to minimize distractions can dramatically increase our productivity and effectiveness, as well as reduce our stress. Who knew right? Without distractions, we could all get in to a proactive flow, produce high-quality work, and achieve much more during the day.

What researchers call mindfulness training– or becoming more mindful -seems to be about a connection between our minds and our bodies. Recognizing patterns of this connection in daily life, consistent practice, and retraining our brains to block out interruptions and remain focused, has helped many people improve their scores on exams, and improved their “working memory”- our mind’s ability to retain and sort through small pieces of information.

Our brains contain several regions that scientists collectively call the “default network,” which kick into high gear when our minds wander, which they do quite frequently when being targeted by so many distractions. By training our brains to focus on simple sensory cues, it may be possible to decrease activity in the default network. Helping all of our minds to stick to a single task could actually change the face ADHD and ID.

Quick fix?

A quick technique or step in mindfulness retraining is to begin by ditching distractions (whether you’re on the train home from work, at your desk, or having dinner, begin by setting aside anything you may be reading, watching, or listening to). Next, sit upright and try to focus only on your simple sensory perceptions: like your breathing, the sound of rain, or the way your food tastes etc… It’s okay if things pop into your head, but try not to think about them too directly or judgmentally.  Counting your breaths while in this mindset, up to 10 and then starting over at zero, can help to keep your thoughts clear and focused. Doing this for 5 to 10 minutes a day can improve your mind’s ability to stay focused.

In treating Internet addictions, young adults in wilderness therapy programs have the opportunity and undistracted time to gain a firm grasp on emotions by practicing mindfulness- or mind-body relaxation techniques. They can parcel off a portion of a day for quiet, stillness and solitude, calm breathing and deeper mediation work. It is this kind of intentional care that seems to have lasting positive effects on mental health. “Grasping and caring for the health of the mind-body connection is a mainstay of therapy programs for young people. Without the health of the mind, the body suffers. Without the health of the body, the mind suffers. When that connection is made between the two, striving for optimal, whole health is possible.”

More active tips for improving focus and diminishing distractions:

  • Use Special software – There are some amazing new software applications such as Freedom and Anti-Social that can help to eliminate online distractions. You can specify which websites you want to block, and even set a timer for how long you want the block to remain active! Using technology to help you from abusing technology. Genius.
  • Close That Internet Browser – You can eliminate Internet distractions by keeping your browser closed when you’re not using it.  Log out of your accounts if you are a big Facebook or Twitter user- or even a constant email checker!  If you’re forced to take those few extra seconds to log in each time, it may act as a reminder to you that you’re not focusing on work. (As an adjustment to this tip you can allow yourself to only check in at set times of the day – for instance, before lunch and at the end of the day.)
  • Take Little Internet Breaks – Remember that taking little breaks, especially after working for an hour or more in deep concentration, is always useful for resting your mind and rebooting. These tiny breaks allow you to return to focus with renewed energy. Perhaps you can use casual Internet browsing as a reward for every hour that you devote to high quality, focused work. Feeling empowered is much more effective tool in mindful retraining.

Now that you’ve utilized your time (extremely wisely) by reading about Internet addictions and distractions, it is a perfect opportunity for you to turn your computer off, do a little stretch and settle in for some highly effective mindfulness retraining.

Tips to Avoid Internet Addiction

Having trouble shutting down your computer? Can’t stop refreshing your Facebook or Twitter streams? Will that video game not let you go? Like any form of entertainment or productivity, the Internet is becoming a compulsion. wilderness therapy program for internet addictionAs human beings, we are compulsively seeking unpredictable payoffs. What do people think of my new photo? What will happen after I conquer this level? We always want to find out and want more.

An entire generation of teens and young adults have grown up with the notion that the Internet can be as simple to access as going to their back pocket or purse. The Internet allows for constant social interaction whether it is Social Media or video games. They are always entertained by its offerings to the point that the “real” world does not seem as engaging or interesting. As a parent, how do you go about steering away your teen from the hooks of Internet addiction?

Here are a few tips and steps to incorporate into your daily life to help avoid the addictive compulsion.

  • Complete your studies. Electronics can get in the way of your teen’s academics. Upon arriving home from school, have your teen focus on their homework or project they have due. They will gain a great sense of relief and accomplishment knowing they’ve finished their homework early. Instead of the all-knowing Wikipedia website, have your teen utilize books or the library for research papers. Teachers will greatly appreciate this.
  • Limit their computer, TV, or video game time. Allot times for your teen’s electronic activities. If they use a laptop or tablet, make sure to put it somewhere they will not see it every day. Encourage them to keep the lid closed on their laptop when not in use; when the computer is not looking at you, you are less likely to use it.
  • Call people instead of sending text messages. It’s too easy for teens to send a text and not have to converse with someone over the phone. Have them call a friend and ask them to do something outside of the house for the day.
  • Plan family nights. One of the simplest manners of minimizing your teen’s Internet usage is planning an activity away from the television, computer or separate, individual activities. Instead eat dinner together, with those electronic distractions off, as a family and plan games for afterward.
  • Realize they have an addiction and that more and more people in the world are becoming addicted to the Internet. Understand that Internet addiction is a very real problem and that your teen is not alone. This addictive behavior is becoming more and more common and well known.

Many families and parents find it difficult to simply disconnect their teen from the Internet. A wilderness therapy program can often be the best solution for this problem. Pacific Quest presents teens the opportunity to engage and interact with nature and our clinicians to help them overcome their underlying need for the Internet.

Our Organic Gardening and Horticultural Therapy allows teens to connect to something that requires their attention and responsibility, rather than a novelty or a tweet. Teens learn the responsibility that comes from working for a goal and that there is more to life than what’s behind a screen.

Symptoms of video game addiction – getting it under control

Can a game truly become an addiction for children and young adults? Experts say absolutely- It’s a clinical impulse control disorder, an addiction in the same sense as compulsive gambling.

Spending a lot of time playing video games doesn’t necessarily qualify as an addiction for children and young adults. The question that needs to be asked is: Can they always control their gaming activity?”

Warning signs/symptoms

Video game addiction signs and symptoms to watch for in children and young adults include, but are not limited to:

  • They are lying about or minimizing time spent playing video games. (Does your child tell you they spent 1 hour playing, but you know they played for 2 hours or more? Perhaps they are even lying about computer or video game use so that computer or video game privileges aren’t taken away. )
  • They exhibit defensive behavior.  (Are you getting an angry reaction or an outright denial when asking your child about their video game playing?)
  • Most of their “free time,” non-school hours are spent on the computer or playing video games. Other parts of their life, like hobbies, schoolwork, friends, or sports can become neglected, because they are devoting more and more time to game play.
  • They are fatigued all the time, perhaps even falling asleep in school.
  • They are hiding feelings. Some kids and teens turn to video games as an escape, to avoid dealing with upsetting emotions, real-life problems and even anxiety, or depression.
  • They are not keeping up with homework and/or not turning in assignments on time.
  • They exhibit worsening irritable, cranky or agitated behavior when not playing video games on TV or the computer.
  • Keeping documentation and logs of when your child plays and for how long, what are the problems that are resulting from gaming and how your child reacts to time limits will help if there is a potential problem and you intend to seek professional help.

Get it under “control “

If you are concerned about the amount of time your child or young adult is playing any kind of video games and the possibility of addiction to video games, take action! Limiting the amount of play should put some balance back into their lives, and make way for other activities and help avoid possible addiction to video games.

However, if attempts to limit game playing are marked anger and increased aggression in your child, it means that there is an addictive quality to their playing and they may actually have an “addiction to video games.”  If this is the Video game addiction in teens and young adultscase, playing needs to be ceased altogether. Because limiting game time, as some people have suggested, to an hour a day lets say, may be comparable to an alcoholic saying they’re only going to drink one beer!

Treatment for video game addiction is similar to detox for other addictions, with one important difference: Computers have become an important part of everyday life. Even in school computers are now used on a daily basis. So just like with a food addiction, for example, children and young adults with a video game addiction must learn to live with it being around them all the time and to be responsible.

As ironic as it may sound, there are actually computer applications available now that can be downloaded and configured to block access to the internet- namely Freedom © and SelfControl ©. This may support initial efforts at gaining control and responsibility.

However, a mere distraction or deterrent to keep your child from being on the Internet won’t be of much help to get over video game addictions. Getting the actual habit out of their system completely is what seems to really matter. Perhaps the biggest key to getting gaming under control is to show gamers they are powerless over their addiction, and then teach them “real-life excitement as opposed to online excitement.”

Some other helpful tips and suggestions for your child may be: Exercise– going for a walk, to the park, to a sports/rec center etc…/ Develop a hobby- learning to play an instrument, paint, sing, dance etc…/ Allocate specific time for using the computer for things other than video games/ Have them use reference books instead of always looking things up on the computer/ Go to bed early.

Parents report amazing results from limiting video game usage or removing it completely for children working through a video game addiction. Freedom from the addiction allows kids to actually start going outside to play, regain interest in their toys, friends, school and to join in family activities. Most importantly, getting these addictions under control allows children their most cherished right- the right to be happy, joyous and free!