Book review: Dr. Larry Rosen, a Research Psychologist and an international expert on the Psychology of Technology just released his 5th book iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming Its Hold On Us. (Watch my complete interview with Dr. Rosen below. He answers the question we all ask “How much time should my kid be spending with technology?”)
I read iDisorder while Caidin and I were in Florida for Spring Break. To say that it made me paranoid is an understatement. Dr. Rosen explores the correlation between technology and disorders such as Narcissism, OCD, Addiction, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD and several phobias and I was acutely aware of my own mind questioning “do I have that?”, which probably means something in the world of Psychology.
The question Dr. Rosen raises is “How does social media, texting, smartphones and the constant barrage of information from computers and other media sources impact our brain?” According to Dr. Rosen’s impeccably sourced and researched book, I feel like we are all a little nutty when it comes to our tether to technology, but his studies are detailing some startling and important insights.
For example one study that Dr. Rosen’s team conducted concluded that students who check their Facebook page once within a 15 minute period are worse students than those who don’t. Dr. Rosen feels this is attributed to the degree to which distraction disrupts studying and learning.
Interestingly though, Dr. Rosen is not anti-technology, he’s actually quite enamored with technology. What he does advocate for is awareness and technology breaks. There is a photo in the book of an adult brain reading and then of an adult brain surfing the internet. The image of the brain surfing the internet shows heightened brain activity compared to the brain reading a book. Dr. Rosen speaks about the real problem of overloading the brain and about the fact that technological multi-tasking is creating an overload of neurological activity that doesn’t simply go away when we turn the technology off. So when your child is surfing the internet, playing a computer game, texting, emailing and listening to music all at the same time, the brain is hyper-stimulated, and that stimulation doesn’t stop when the technology is turned off.
In addition to overstimulation, Dr. Rosen explores the development of social phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder, narcissism, addiction, ADHD and hypochondriasis (the ‘am I dying?’ syndrome) all in connection to our use of technology. Narcissistic traits rise to surface when we are ‘Me-formers’ instead of ‘Informers’, a great phrase coined by Dr. Rosen. Others will crave the internet as a source of comfort or as a way to zone out and become addicted to it and still others will spend hours searching the internet in an attempt to self-diagnose their perceived symptoms even after being given a clean bill of health by their doctor which is linked to Hypochondriasis. (Although I have to say, I know people who were given a supposedly clean bill of health and DID in fact discover the cause of their symptoms by searching the internet – just saying.)
So what can we do? As parents it’s important to be aware of the ‘red flags’ that you, your partner or your child have a problem with technology. In most of the chapters Dr. Rosen offers quizzes that you can take to help assess your and your child’s technology behaviors in relationship to particular disorders. Dr. Rosen also offers ways to help balance your interaction, should you find these iDisorders surfacing.
But I think of all the information Dr. Rosen shares, the most important tool to help combat the constant deluge of information and technological activity is to let your mind take a break. Dr. Rosen explains that shutting technology off won’t reset your brain because of the way in which the brain is activated. Instead, Dr. Rosen recommends that you get out into nature, where the brain is fed calming singles that allow the brain to truly take a break.
I think balance and moderation are the key to health and wellness. We can’t keep our kids segregated from technology but we can teach them healthy ways to interact with it and use it and we can be on the lookout for signs of potential problems. Lastly, remember one of the essential elements of Conscious Parenting (read article) – Model Behavior. Your kids will follow your lead, so be the one to set the tone and pace for technology usage. When your kids are little, don’t sit at the dinner table checking your phone ever five seconds, don’t have your phone out in the car and take time to engage in meaningful face-to-face conversation. Better yet, teach your child to use the telephone, it’s becoming a lost art to have a phone conversation.
So in hindsight, maybe it wasn’t that I turned my technology off while Caidin and I were in Florida, maybe it was because my brain was receiving those calming singles from the fresh ocean breeze and the lolling sound of the waves. Either way, I know I came home feeling refreshed, calm and very creative.
I highly recommend iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us by Larry Rosen, Ph.D. He offers insight into a world that is common place for our children and he offers ways to help them to develop healthy habits.
© 2012 Christine Agro
Christine Agro is a clairvoyant, naturopath, Master Herbalist, conscious mom and author of 50 Ways to Live Life Consciously as well as of The Conscious Living Wisdom Cards (Special Moms’ Edition). Christine is founder of The Conscious Mom’s Guide, a membership site where she helps support you on your own journey of living life consciously and on your journey of being a Conscious parent. You can also join Christine on Facebook.
Watch my complete interview with Dr. Rosen. He answers the question we all ask “How much time should my kid be spending with technology?”