Twelve steps for the cyber-powered family: Reclaiming peace

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Return to Table of Contents: 2014 Spring/Summer Edition of Banana Moments – Family Business Quarterly

Photo by: Wikipedia

Photo by: Wikipedia

Yes indeed. There is such a thing as “internet addiction disorder,” and yet it is nothing new as far as the human experience is concerned. Modern science confirms that the brain is malleable; and a term called neuroplasticity explains how human experiences in the world can actually change neuropathways and synapses in the brain. According to a Forbes 2012 fall report, internet addiction research was featured and showed “demonstrable changes in their brains – both in the connections between cells and in the brain”. In other news last summer, the Korean youth are cited as the most addicted to mobile connectivity in the world, and as a result the physicians there are observing memory issues among youth that resemble dementia.

Experiences like the trauma of being physically assaulted, abandoned and betrayed, as well as stimulants like drugs, alcohol, cyber technology, sex and graphic sexual images, and gambling can literally re-wire the brain to become dependent upon external sources to “feel good” or seek a sense of normal in response to painful emotion aroused in the realm of heart and mind. The net result (no pun intended) is that you can believe that there is no normal without the external stimulation – and hence there is no peace. In this state of addiction, the ability to self sooth, your personal power, is disabled.

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And so it is no wonder that parents marvel with great concern about the magnetic impact of devices captivating children and altering family dynamics. Cyber connectivity has ushered forth the challenge of overcoming addictive experiences. In my fieldwork, I encounter parents who are seriously struggling with the power crisis mobile connectivity introduces into family dynamics. Recently, a mother of two expresses her dismay to me as her children have become literally different people, abandoning other interests to remain in front of the screen. Another father is struggling with the isolation his family experiences as his children and his wife devote their attention to the devices. Loss, helplessness and powerless are the adjectives that come to mind.

Really, this is an insidious problem. The peace is disturbed by an isolation that comes from surrendering your personal attention to the device in the presence of others. It is a subtle and profound transformation of heart and mind. How can you make another person pay attention without disturbing the peace even more?

Marshall Hopper is the Chief Probation Officer for the Placer County Probation Department.

Marshall Hopper is the Chief Probation Officer for the Placer County Probation Department.

Marshall Hopper is the Chief Probation Officer for Placer County Probation Department. He observes that smart devices pose a challenge for parents and kids as children are issued devices at very early ages and there is definitely an impact on the brain much like a drug. As we know, it is the feel good, dopamine response to the touch screen that can get some kids hooked. “I have found that neither the kids nor their parents who give their children devices understand what it can do,” he said. “Kids as young as eight years old are handed mobile phones, and then they get hooked.”

Hopper understands why parents provide the mobile communications to their children. “We are juggling very busy work and family schedules, dropping our kids off to different sporting events and extra curricular activities,” he said. “It feels like it is safer to give them a way to stay in constant communication with us.”

Hopper encourages us to be mindful about being present with our children. “Take a look at what you see in restaurants,” he said. “The kids are on their phones and they are quiet, but what have they learned about communication? And then when things do go bad, there is no track record, no experience to talk about it and learn from it.”

Defining normal: Who is in command of your child’s inner world?

It is a good thing to ask ourselves, “Who is in command of your child’s inner world?” because mobile connectivity has also ushered in an urgency to become self-governing at earlier ages. By this I mean, understanding where your own personal power originates.

Seriously, I am asking you to consider what you believe about this. Because if you do not believe that your child has the capacity to think for her or himself, and connect with their Creator, then you cannot give your child what you do not have: the confidence and peace to confront some of the very real experiences in life intensified by cyber connectivity that can leave a person feeling defeated and hopeless.

Related article:  Anxious parents can learn how to reduce anxiety in their kids

I have found it helpful to accept that painful emotion is a normal part of the human experience. The most important way we can instill a family culture of individual resiliency is by declaring your truth for your family rooted in the mustard seed of faith that makes a free society possible in the first place:

  • God is sovereign over the life of every individual and he grants individuals intelligence and free will.
  • Therefore power over your own heart and mind is something that cannot be taken from you by the world, but it can be easily surrendered.

In this regard, power is a choice.

And that is why I have so much respect for people in recovery of chemical addiction. They have made the choice to literally overcome the world. So for those of us who feel like we have it all together because we have not had to confront the battle of chemical addiction, let us consider the resilient and redemptive character inherent in the following 12-steps for taming the emotion that can inspire powerlessness.

12-Steps for the modern family: Taming emotion

(Source: 12-Steps Review: Christian Friends in Recovery)

  1. Just for today –  I will try to live through this day only, not tackling all of my problems at once. I can do something at this moment that would discourage me if I had to continue it for a lifetime.

2. Just for today – I will try to be happy, realizing my happiness does

not depend on what others do or say or what happens around me. Happiness is a result of being at peace with myself.

3.Just for today – I will try to adjust myself to what is and not force everything to adjust to my own desires. I will accept my family, my friends, my business, my circumstances as they come.

4. Just for today – I will take care of my physical health; I will exercise my mind; I will read something spiritual.

5. Just for today – I will do somebody a good turn and not get found out. If anyone knows of it, it will not count. I will do at least one thing I don’t want to do, and I will perform some small act of love for my neighbor.

6. Just for today – I will try to go out of my way to be kind to someone I meet. I will be considerate, talk low, and look as good as I can. I will not engage in unnecessary criticism or finding fault, nor try to improve or regulate anybody except myself.

7. Just for today – I will have a program. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. I will save myself from two pests— hurry and indecision.

8. Just for today – I will stop saying, “If I had time.” I never will find time for anything. If I want time, I must take it.

9. Just for today –  I will have a quiet time of meditation wherein I shall think of my Higher Power, of myself, and of my neighbor. I shall relax and seek truth.

10. Just for today – I shall be unafraid. Particularly, I shall be unafraid to be happy, to enjoy what is good, what is beautiful, and what is lovely in life.

11. Just for today – I will not compare myself with others. I will accept myself and live to the best of my ability.

12. Just for today – I choose to believe that I can live this one day.

Return to Table of Contents: 2014 Spring/Summer Edition of Banana Moments – Family Business Journal

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Joanna Jullien (Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.

Cyber safety for kids and families on TheFish103.9FM (videos)

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.

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