Throughout her book, Maushart discusses the cultural implications of a disconnected society.
But…in the many years that I have worked as a counsellor and psychotherapist in the field of addictions, there has been a dramatic increase over the last few years in internet, iDevice and touchscreen based addictions.
Other concerns associated with iAddiction highlighted in The Winter of Our Disconnect include an escalation in anger, anxiety, co-dependency, comparison, depression, disconnectedness, impatience, intolerance, low self-worth, obsessive compulsive behaviours, narcissism, an inability to relate, rude manners, risk taking and dangerous behaviours such as sexting, texting and driving, as well as a myriad of sleep issues. Subsequently, some of the issues related to sleep bankruptcy are anxiety, depression, hostility, attention deficits, a greater risk of drug and alcohol use, headaches, fatigue, stomach and back aches (Maushart 2010).
The Winter of Our Disconnect shines the light on numerous sources of research regarding the impact of excessive screen time. From the first night of the experiment, Maushart noticed a change in the way her family communicated with each other.
The children became more focused and their attention span, concentration and reading skills increased. They felt more connected listening to the same music on the radio (previously everyone was in their own world using iPods). They all experienced a relief from their media devices even though they were expecting the 6 months to be hell. The children learnt more hobbies and spent time fostering new skills such as musical instruments, making clothes and cooking.
The family connected with a sense of humour as they spent time reminiscing about stories from their past.
The children became more socially responsible, for example, the children turned up on time rather than texting last minute lateness and cancellations.
Maushart asks us to consider, ‘How are we fostering digital dependency and unhealthy use in our relationships, family and home life?’ She recommends the following (pp. If you are struggling with iAddiction, consider trying the above guidelines for healthy screen use as well as seeking support from a registered psychotherapist in your area to work through the underlying issues. Sydney Soul-Centred Life-Coach, Counsellor and Psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Far too often, I find practitioners who have set “glass ceilings” for their clients, often citing the client’s complexities of need or lack of motivation as the reasons why they cannot progress any further.
A concept that has gained great ground over the last few years is that of ‘recovery capital’; a term used to describe the collection of personal, social and community resources that are available to individuals to help start and sustain recovery journeys.
I get up in the morning because I have to, I have a vested interest in my work and my family – this is part of my capital.
If the individual suffering with addiction had no resources, no social buy in, why would they give up the one thing that in the short term comforts them and provides them with some purpose or connection? The New Economics Foundation (NEF) was commissioned to develop a set of evidence-based actions to improve personal wellbeing. Holt Lundstad et al (2010) showed that having supportive relationships was a bigger predictor in decreasing mortality than giving up smoking. Connecting or being connected works on a multiplicity of levels and is both intra (within) and interpersonal (between).  For the person suffering with addiction, it is about building or utilising existing networks of support, be that through family, friends, peers, mutual aid groups, the wider recovery community, community groups and associations. For the counsellor and psychotherapist, ‘connect’, is as much about how they connect to the client as to how they are connected in their own lives. From a holistic perspective, it goes without saying that diet and physical activity play a key part in wellbeing and addiction recovery.
Finally, it is worth noting the significance of reframing recovery as a “learning process”  with opportunities to gain mastery over new skills, do what is important and experience greater autonomy with plenty of opportunities to give back and engage in altruistic activities.
The team at Emerging Horizons offer cutting edge recovery solutions underpinned by a vigorous commitment to supporting the development of world-class recovery support services in the UK. Connect with Emerging Horizons on Facebook for the latest in addiction and well-being news.
Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. One of the justifications for allowing early iDevice use is that children will learn their ABCs and 123s faster than their less fortunate counterparts.
In ‘iPad mini will be bad for your kids’, Kit Eaton from the New York Times writes, “Inactivity associated with TV and computer watching is connected with developmental issues, mobility issues, and health issues to do with diet, diabetes, and other issues. Kevin Donnelly states in ‘Educating your child… it’s not rocket science!’, ‘The danger is that too much time on computer games, watching screens and surfing the net damages the way we process information and the way we think. Many parents are noticing that their children enter a trance like state, commonly known as a ‘flow experience’ in the world of psychology. Comparable to children’s physical, emotional, social and psychological development, the early years of neurological brain development are formative. With iDevices a growing part of children’s culture, there are plenty of companies now targeting children with child specific apps and add on extras such as remote control helicopters.
However, just because something is pitched as ‘educational’ and ‘interactive’ and being sold as, ‘every child must have one’ – it doesn’t mean they should!
Like many parents, we were momentarily persuaded by, ‘if we don’t let them use an iDevice, they will get left behind’. Anker warns us that learning with an iDevice is not the same as when children use books to learn. In Matt Ritchel’s New York Times article, ‘Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say’, English educator Hope Molina-Porter who teaches accelerated students, has noted a marked decline in the depth and analysis of written work. This last statement is particularly important for our children’s ongoing emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being. Browne, Clayton, Demand Media, What Does “Cradle to Grave” Mean in Advertising?
Donnelly, Kevin, (2013 to be released), Educating Your Child … it’s not rocket science!


National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, (2004), Young children develop in an environment of relationships. Newton, Phillip (2009), What is dopamine?The neurotransmitter’s role in the brain and behavior. As a psychotherapist in part-time private practice and full-time stay at home mum, like most people these days, I’d feel somewhat lost without my iPad.
Much of my clinical and written work for the past 15 years has focused on addiction, so I am constantly aware of the limitations and increasing dangers of the overuse, abuse and addiction to touch screen devices and the internet. Mike Elgan from PCWorld suggests that it won’t be long before every child will have a touch-screen device. The iPad has been described by the New York Times technology guru, David Pogue, as a ‘magic electronic babysitter that creates instant peace in the household’.
Bearing all of this in mind, I began to research the effects of the use of touch-screen devices in early childhood. During the Industrial Revolution, workers who were staring into the iron maw of machinery that did not fatigue, responded by fighting for the eight-hour day. The Pew Internet American Life Project found that families with multiple communication devices were less likely to eat dinner together. They also became more logical in their thinking and were able to hold more complex levels of conversation. This taught the whole family tolerance of others, expanded their horizons and levels of consciousness. Maushart credits this to not using technology to stimulate, numb or distract themselves out of boredom. I see it as my job, and that of any counsellor or psychotherapist, to hold hope for the individual seeking recovery, until it can be fully internalised and experienced by the individual, whose current perception of themselves is often one of failure, helplessness and shame. Relationships and community ties are some of the things that help me to manage and adapt to adversity and the unexpected. This is especially pertinent when the individual is highly self-critical, may lack confidence or is trying to find evidence to confirm their self-limiting view of themselves and the world.
The NEF completed a large scale analysis of research on wellbeing, with a particular focus on ‘Positive Psychology’.
Last week I was training a recovery coach, who self-managed his own recovery, exclusively using the 5TWB, monitoring his life around these 5 core behaviours. The importance of authentic relationships (quantity and quality) is essential to wellbeing. It is also about overcoming the possible barriers to relationship and connection: shame, stigma, attachment difficulties, limiting core beliefs, issues of trust, pride and social competence. Paradoxically the greater our sense of belonging, the greater our sense of autonomy is likely to be. For me, the application of mindfulness based psychologies and teaching to support the maintenance of recovery, resilience and wellbeing is also key and should now be the norm and a definite in any credible relapse prevention program.
Couns) is trained in psychosynthesis psychology, therapeutic counselling, life and performance coaching, substance misuse, management and engineering. They have delivered training to some of the largest voluntary sector provider agencies in the UK as well HM Prison Services, Probation Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts.
In ‘What to Expect the Toddler Years’, Eisnsberg, Murkoff and Hathaway write, ‘While children who have had some number experience before school may enjoy a temporary edge, studies show they don’t retain it, as other students quickly catch up’. This often happens when children watch TV, play video games or become engrossed in their favourite toys. Technology guru, Ben Worthen suggests that when playing with toys such as Lego, it is the child who makes the choice to end playing, however, with touch-screen apps, the game decides when the child will end. Many of the apps aimed at children, including the ‘educational’ ones, are designed to stimulate dopamine releases.
Why then, would we introduce them at a young age to using something that could potentially have long lasting effects and consequences on their health and well-being?
Susan Linn, Instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School confirms, ‘This generation of children is marketed to as never before. Former scientist Kit Eaton writes that the iPad mini ‘comes with the same ‘must have vibe’ as other Apple products.’  The iPad mini, at a more cost effective price and being more portable for tiny hands, will no doubt be a huge seller for children. When we gave in against better judgment, and let our two toddlers use our touch screen phone and iPad, like many parents, it was for reading interactive stories and for using apps such as Leaning ABCs and 123s. When we read books, we are usually sitting together, interacting and building a relationship with one another. Just recently, St Andrew’s Cathedral School in central Sydney, informed parents that it would require all students in years 7 to 10 to own an iPad from next year. Its benefits are endless: appointment scheduler, camera, children’s playground finder, weather forecaster, recipe index, cinema booking office, music player, daily meditations, online bookstore, email, social media business and life organiser…all in the one spot!
Coupled with my studies in childhood attachment and development throughout my psychotherapy training, I was reluctant to let our children use iDevices in their early years. For eight to eighteen year olds, media use has grown so quickly that on average children and teenagers are spending twice as much time using iDevices as they spend time in school. Parents, who are tired of losing their own iDevices to their children, will either purchase the far more affordable iPad mini or they will continue to pass down their older versions as they upgrade to a newer model. Elgan suggests that parents are always looking for electronic babysitters to pacify their kids so they can do something else, for example, driving, cleaning or making dinner. This desire was underpinned by the belief that quality of life was best maintained by eight hours labour, eight hours rest and eight hours recreation.
When she spoke of the family’s 6 month ‘experiment’ to friends, she continuously came up against, ‘are you sure you want to do this to the kids?’; likening internet, iDevices and screen time as a new ‘need’ wedged between Maslow’s basic and love needs. Some of these include biographical, psychological, social, neurobiological and spiritual concerns. Cocaine, binge drinking and playing the pokies are also a part of life but that doesn’t mean they are recommended practice, healthy or good for our overall wellbeing (Maushart 2010).


Family meals are consistently correlated with positive outcomes for children; those who eat family meals 5-7 times a week get better grades, have a sunnier outlook on life and have significantly fewer problems with drugs, alcohol, nicotine and eating disorders. Hope can be nurtured by exposure to success – people who have done it themselves and where recovery is visable. Having come up with a list of the key common findings, they were tasked with reducing these down to a simple and workable message that would support people to adopt behaviours that promote wellbeing, in a similar way that the public health message of ‘5 a day’ aims to encourage healthier eating.
It is especially important for individuals addressing an addiction where their social needs and identity may be intimately linked to the culture of addiction they have lived in – with its rituals, beliefs, roles and relational networks. Because connection is so important, I would suggest that a more proactive approach to working with the client’s network of support is called for. He has worked across a range of substance misuse and mental health services; spanning areas such as engagement, medical and non-medical community treatment and residential rehabilitation.
So… while early use is linked with some temporary benefits, there is also a cost…and one that far out ways the advantages. It becomes increasingly difficult for children to stop playing because of the dopamine reward in the brain that they experience.
These encourage children to keep playing by offering rewards or exciting visuals at unpredictable times (Worthen, 2012) . Kids are being marketed to through brand licensing, through product placement, marketing in schools, through stealth marketing, through viral marketing. As we sit, spend time, see, hear and learn with our children, it sends them a core message fundamental to building their sense of self-worth, ‘you are important to me – you are worth my time’.
Teachers are also  concerned about what they call ‘the “Wikipedia problem,” in which students have grown so accustomed to getting quick answers with a few keystrokes that they are more likely to give up when an easy answer eludes them. Not in Silicon Valley’ (the epicentre of the tech economy) – CEOs, chief technology officers, and other employees of Silicon Valley giants such as Ebay, Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlard –Packard, all send their children to Wardolf schools (video below).
I saw few developmental benefits and thought they hindered creativity and the ability to connect and relate to others (one of the major underlying issues with all addictions). Children with parents who have busy life and work schedules and with books considered outdated by some, many children are now spending less than 10 minutes a day reading.
For the time being, we have done a  U-turn in regards to letting our kids use iDevices until they are older and can appropriately navigate guidelines and boundaries. Whilst it is imperative to consider addiction from a holistic perspective, the primary issues underlying dependency and addiction problems are about relationship and connection; with self and other. There is growing evidence of the significant impact that the therapist’s own expectations have on efficacy of interventions and this is particularly so in addictions. With particular expertise in change management and leadership, Damian has a strong track record in the implementation and turnaround of large, recovery orientated, integrated substance misuse services and treatment systems.
She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating addiction recovery and eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia. Philip Newton, neuroscience lecturer at Swansea University, describes dopamine as a ‘neurotransmitter, one of those chemicals that are responsible for transmitting signals inbetween the nerve cells (neurons) of the brain.
In the many articles I have researched regarding iPad use and children, I came across parent after parent complaining about extreme reactions when trying to remove an iDevice from their children’s teeny, tiny hands. This style of schooling subscribes to a ‘teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks’.
For those who have experienced that time between 4pm to dinner, bath or bed, when our adorable little beings turn into screeching and scary little witches, goblins, demons and monsters – screen time instantly brings a sense of calmness to what is otherwise known as ‘witching hour’.
It probably comes as no surprise then, that in the coming weeks, we will not be using the iPotty in our attempts to potty train our little one!
Increasingly this is being backed up through a plethora of research in the field of early attachment relationships and neuroscience. He has special interests in group work, mutual aid, conflict resolution, mindfulness based practices to support healing and wellbeing and community development and regeneration.
Very few neurons actually make dopamine.’ Altered levels of dopamine can cause a range of symptoms and issues. One potential outcome is that we raise a whole heap of computer savvy kids who are unable to relate and interact in a healthy and meaningful way in the real world. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans. Whilst approaching the so called ‘terrible twos’, this type of tantrum was extreme and out of character. When our will is trapped in maintaining cycles of dependency and addiction, our primary relationship is with the substance or process; in this case, our iPad, iPhone, or other screen based trapping. Damian is passionate about helping others to connect with their values, meaning and purpose and translating this into action. Some of these are known to be Parkinson’s disease, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), psychosis and schizophrenia.
Tony Dokoubil, in ‘Is the web driving us mad?’ writes, ‘Dopamine also plays a role in addiction, because it is part of the brain’s system of motivation.
When the drug exits the system, it leaves behind a sense of depression and a slowdown, which can only be remedied by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter again. The brain quickly learns to seek out drugs that will stimulate production, leading to addiction’.



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