Digital Detox

The Behavioral Health Services at Bradford Regional Medical Center, a psychiatric hospital in Pennsylvania, is set to open the nation’s first in-hospital treatment for people obsessed by the internet. For a mere $14,000, patients get a 10 day program designed by professional head shrinkers with experience treating addictions to drugs and alcohol.
But many professionals are wary of using the term “addiction” (note the quote marks this time) when it comes to people’s inability to resist the lure of cat videos and keeping up on the what their Facebook friends had for dinner. Dr. Allen Frances, the chairman of the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders a.k.a. the encyclopedia of insanity) and professor emeritus at Duke University said the disorder “wasn’t ready for primetime.”
Speaking of “primetime” most readers of this blog (including the authors!) are too young to remember when “TV addiction” was the fear sweeping the nation. Here’s a taste from a 1971 New York Times article entitled “Are You Hooked — By TV?” :
“…some addicts have shrunk into a schizophrenic state, withdrawing totally into the television world.” 
If you want to read more, you’ll have to use the… gasp… internet.

Deluge of Digital Distraction

There’s no app for parents struggling with managing the digital generation but there are a pile of old-fashioned books coming out (these ARE for parents after all).  A rundown in the New York Times highlights three of them. Surprisingly, only one has the word ‘Addiction” in it and none are foolish enough to recommend parents try the “the Full Amish” digital blackout for any significant length of time. Perhaps most surprisingly, one even recommends that parents look at THEIR digital habits before bringing the hammer down and another advises one to “tweet mindfully”. But what’s the fun in THAT?




Screen shot 2013-07-22 at 2.54.37 PMIt’s seems location is everything when it comes to terrorist tweets and punishment-worthy posts. In Texas, Leagues of Legends player, Justin Carter, age 19, is just now getting out the cooler, thanks to an anonymous individual who posted his $500,000(!) bail. Justin’s crime was posting “Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head,” in a post-Leagues of Legends online argument . “I’m going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts.” Justin claims it was a joke (admittedly not a very funny one). Well, if he wasn’t “messed up in the head” then he probably is now after the abuse he suffered in his almost four months in jail. Click here for the details of that ordeal and the punishment he still faces for his facebook flub.

Meanwhile, cooler heads seemed to have prevailed in Chicago (it is quite a bit north of Texas after all) when “Mark” a 15 year-old high school sophomore threatened, via tweet, to shoot everyone in his hometown and “get away wit it just like Zimmerman,” He deleted the tweet after a quick backlash and asked “Why you taking it serious.”The local police seem to have approached it with just the right amount of seriousness, bringing “Mark” to the station and letting him go after questioning. “There is no credibility to the threat. He has no weapons and no access to weapons,” a law enforcement official said.


“If we teach the children how to play and encourage them in their sports…instead of shutting them in badly ventilated schoolrooms, the next generation will be more joyous and will be healthier than the present one.”

Does the quote above sound like something from a recent editorial about what sad little shut-ins kids have become because of the influence of internet and social media? In fact, it’s taken from Public Opinion: A Comprehensive Summary of the Press Throughout the World, Volume 18, published in 1895. This nugget of wisdom and worry is but one of many available at The Pace of Modern Life, a section from the web comic xkcd. You can also read many more in BAD FOR YOU’s timeline titled FEAR OF THE NEW. At least you can when it comes out in November.




(Slightly Altered Version of TIME cover)

“I am about to do what old people have done throughout history,” Joel Stein warned in his May 9th cover story for Time (“THE ME, ME, ME GENERATION”), “call those younger than me lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow.” And that’s only the beginning of the name-calling. But Stein claims that, unlike previous examples of generational kid-hating, this time: “I have proof.” One of the key studies he provides as evidence is from the National Institutes of Health: “The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that’s now 65 or older….”

“Narcissistic personality disorder” – wow, that does sound BAD: imagine that you’re so in love with yourself that doctors have to give it an official name (although they did cut the disorder from the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder). But guess what? When The Atlantic – another newsy magazine – looked at that National Institute study that Stein based his “cold hard facts” on, those facts seemed kinda fuzzy. The Atlantic referred to a paper titled “It Is Developmental Me, Not Generation Me,” in which psychologists argue that there is actually no increase in narcissism in younger people – once the current study’s statistics are properly compared to previous studies from earlier generations. Another sort of obvious thing about young people that the psychologists point out (and that The Atlantic snappily rephrased): “Basically, it’s not that people born after 1980 are narcissists, it’s that young people are narcissists, and they get over themselves as they get older.” Something else the psychologists say, which is just as important: “[W]hen older people…confuse the claim for generational change with the fact that younger people are simply more narcissistic than they are…[t]he confusion leads to an increased likelihood that older individuals will agree with the Generation Me argument despite its lack of…support.”

That may help explain the popularity of people like Jean Twenge, who wrote a book in 2006 called (big surprise!) Generation Me. Twenge always manages to be quoted in every single article out there criticizing young people, and the Time cover story is no exception: “When [kids are] little it seems cute to tell them they’re special or a princess or a rock star or whatever their T-shirt says. When they’re 14 it’s no longer cute.” Twenge, who lectures around the country about how self-obsessed kids are “oversharing” on social media, may be the one being “cute” here – by overselling the influence of sites like Facebook. According to a huge, new survey done by the highly respected Pew Charitable Trust, actually few kids “embrace a fully public approach to social media.” And, they’re not oversharing with strangers either (“Teens’ Facebook friendship networks largely mirror their offline networks”). In fact, 70% of teen FB users “friend” their parents, and a whopping 91% “friend” extended family members.

That sounds like pretty grown-up behavior for a bunch of self-absorbed kids.