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The Digital Invasion (Part 6) - Internet Addiction, Setting Digital Boundaries

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XV. Internet addictions
1. Internet use, like many other activities or substances, can be addictive if overused.
A. If you can't stop doing a certain habitual thing (surfing the internet, video gaming, shopping, playing a sport, gambling, etc.) or using a certain substance (alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, pain medication, sleeping medication, etc.) without having withdrawal symptoms, you are addicted to that activity or substance.
i. Addiction n. - 1. Rom. Law. A formal giving over or delivery by sentence of court. Hence, A surrender, or dedication, of any one to a master. 2. a. The state of being (self-)addicted or given to a habit or pursuit; devotion. b. The, or a, state of being addicted to a drug (see addicted ppl. a. 3b); a compulsion and need to continue taking a drug as a result of taking it in the past.
ii. Addicted ppl. adj. - 3. a. Self-addicted (to a practice); given, devoted or inclined; attached, prone. b. Dependent on the continued taking of a drug as a result of taking it in the past; having a compulsion to take a drug, the stopping of which produces withdrawal symptoms.
B. To be addicted to anything is to allow it to have power over you.
i. The Bible teaches that we are not to be brought under the power of anything, even lawful things (1Co 6:12).
ii. We must keep under our body and bring it into subjection, including our brain which is prone to get addicted to dopamine, not let it control us (1Co 9:27).
iii. Keep - v. 56. keep under. trans. To hold in subjection or under control; to keep down.
iv. Sin must not be allowed to reign (to have power, sway, or predominance; to prevail or be prevalent) in our bodies (Rom 6:12).
v. We must not yield (to hand over, give up, relinquish possession of, surrender, resign) our body to sin and let it have dominion (the power or right of governing and controlling; sovereign authority; lordship, sovereignty; rule, sway; control, influence) over us (Rom 6:13-14).
C. Addiction is a form of what the scripture calls inordinate affection (Col 3:5).
i. Inordinate adj. - 1. Not ‘ordered’; devoid of order or regularity; deviating from right or rule; irregular, disorderly; not regulated, controlled, or restrained.
ii. Affection n. - II. Of the mind. 2. a. An affecting or moving of the mind in any way; a mental state brought about by any influence; an emotion or feeling.
iii. According to the definitions, an inordinate affection is a moving of the mind or a mental state brought about by an unregulated, uncontrolled, or unrestrained influence.
iv. If a habit or a substance has an influence on your mind that you are not able to restrain or control (in other words, you have an addiction to it), you have an inordinate affection for that habit or substance.
v. Inordinate affection is a sin which we are to mortify (Col 3:5).
vi. This means that we should mortify addictions in our lives.
D. For example: Christians must not be addicted to alcohol.
i. A pastor must not be given to wine (1Ti 3:3).
a. Given ppl. adj. - 2. Used predicatively: Inclined, disposed, addicted, prone.
b. Pastors cannot be addicted to any amount of wine.
c. Therefore a pastor cannot even be addicted to one glass of wine or beer per day.
d. Pastors are held to a higher standard than other Christians.
ii. Deacons and aged women are not to be given to much wine (1Ti 3:8; Tit 2:3).
a. Non-pastors have a little leeway when it comes to wine drinking habits, as deacons and aged women are told to not be given to much wine.
b. To have a habit of drinking several glasses of wine each day, which cannot be stopped without negative side effects, would be to be given (addicted) to much wine.
c. A Christian is forbidden to have such an addiction.
iii. This does not mean that pastors or church members cannot drink any wine (1Ti 5:23).
iv. Of course any addiction to wine could not extend to the point of drunkenness for any Christian (Gal 5:21).
E. There are a few addictions the scripture allows and encourages.
i. A pastor and church members must be given to hospitality (1Ti 3:2; Rom 12:13).
ii. The house of Stephanas was addicted to ministering to the saints (1Co 16:15).
iii. The churches of Macedonia gave themselves to the Lord and to the brethren (2Co 8:5).
F. Unbiblical addictions, including internet addictions, should be resisted and fled from.
2. The following are some quotes from The Digital Invasion concerning Internet addiction:
A. "The article goes on to say that the brains of Internet addicts scan a lot like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts. Our digital gadgets acts [sic] like electronic cocaine to the brain." (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, page 134)
B. "A national study conducted by a team from Stanford University's School of Medicine estimates that nearly one in eight Americans suffer from at least one sign of problematic Internet use; many think it is higher than this." (Ibid, page 137)
C. "Internet addictions share many of the characteristics of other addictions. These are the main features of all addictions:
• Addictions remove us from our true feelings, providing a form of escape from the unpleasant aspects of life. In many cases, one uses the Internet excessively in order to cope with social situations that are out of control. For instance, a husband who is unhappy with his marriage could swamp his life with Internet activities. Similarly, someone who is not performing well at work could find an escape in the digital world.
• Addictive behavior takes control of the addict to the extent that it exceeds all logic or reason. The true addict has feelings but may not acknowledge them.
• Addictions take the pleasure system of the brain captive. Only the addiction provides pleasure, but robs the center of other pleasures.
• The addiction takes priority over all other life issues. All addicts develop an obsession over their addictive behavior and think only of the moment they can get back to their addiction.
• Addicts always deny that their addiction is out of control and cannot see anything bad in their behavior.
• All addictions are, in a sense, also substance addictions, when you consider that the body becomes "hooked" on the underlying biochemical changes." (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, pages 137-138)
D. "Research has shown the most effective treatment plan for overcoming digital addiction is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. 10 This treatment is based on the premise that thoughts determine feelings. This model helps explain how negative self-thoughts can fuel the compulsive behavior associated with the digital addiction. The most common negative emotions present in those with digital addictions are depression and anxiety. The other emotions digital addicts feel are being tense, lonely, restless, withdrawn, angry, or useless. 11 In treating digital addictions, the goal is to abstain from the application you are most addicted to while using the other needed digital applications moderately." (Ibid, page 144)
3. Addiction to the internet and digital technology is effecting troubled teens in worse ways than in years past.
A. The following is a quote from Trace Embry, the founder and executive director of Shepherd's Hill Academy (SHA), a Christ-centered and biblically based residential program and school that serves families of troubled teenagers between the ages of twelve and seventeen.
B. "I (Trace) have noticed an incredible difference in the behavior, attitude, and overall mental, emotional, and spiritual health of newly enrolled students over the past decade especially in the last few years. Being born into the digital world, this new generation of young people seems to be hardwired, like robots, with insatiable appetites for things that are killing them from the inside out.
When kids come to our program for a year, SHA kids have virtually no access to television, iPods, cell phones, video games, movies, bombastic music, inappropriate entertainment, computers, or any other technological devices requiring screens, keyboards, or electricity. They are reduced to the basics of life. Over the years, we've discovered that when kids first come, their ability to reason, contemplate, and problem solve just isn't there, at least not as it should be for their age group. Many come with little ability to think abstractly or objectively. Most are very narcissistic and lack empathy, while some appear to have no conscience whatsoever. But again, over time their critical, creative, and constructive thinking capacities begin to return to them as they engage in activities, such as construction projects, preparing meals, and other problem-solving tasks that require those parts of the brain to fire again." (Ibid, page 181)
4. If you are struggling with Internet addiction (or any type of addiction) you should seek counsel from your pastor and possibly from professional addiction counselors as well.
5. Following the steps found in Section XII,9 of this outline on how to deal with sin in general is a good starting point.
6. If your children have an Internet addiction, you need to take as much as needed away from them to break the addiction.
A. It will not make your children happy with you, but it is your job as a parent to stop their destructive behaviors.
B. Start by being a good example for them yourself.

XVI. Suggestions for digital boundaries and etiquette
1. Set your email app on your smart phone to only retrieve emails manually, not by "push" or "fetch".
A. This will stop the alert tones from distracting you while praying, reading your Bible, studying, working, or visiting with people.
B. This has made a huge difference in my life.
C. Limit checking emails to once or less an hour.
2. Configure your smartphone to automatically go into "do not disturb" or airplane mode during the time you are normally sleeping.
A. This will block alerts for emails, texts, notifications from Facebook, Twitter, etc., and possibly calls from sounding and waking you up while you are sleeping.
B. If you have a home phone and don't rely on your cell phone for your sole method of communication, then turn your off your cell phone or put it in airplane mode while you are sleeping.
3. Try to end your digital day by 9:00pm.
A. Don't check email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. after that time.
B. Don't read news, etc. on your smartphone right before going to bed.
C. This will stimulate your brain and make it more difficult to fall asleep.
4. Don't take out your smartphone, tablet, or laptop when you are visiting with anyone.
A. "In our fast-paced society with its multiple demands, there is a real danger that we are losing our manners, especially our social etiquette." (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, page 158)
B. "The phenomenon has been coined absent presence, meaning that someone uses their phone to check their messages, play video games, or play with apps while they are with someone else. It is because of this out-of-control digital behavior that we would like to start our own "Netiquette Revolution." We are calling it "BE WHERE YOUR BUTT IS." (Ibid, page 159)
C. "This revolution is about practicing the presence of people. When you find yourself in this situation, hit the pause on your smartphone or close your laptop, and reconnect with whoever is present. As an example, if you are having lunch with a friend or your spouse, try to stay focused, present, and in the moment with each person. Give them your full attention. Put your smartphone on vibrate and keep it in your purse or pocket. Resist the urge to check it. Better yet, leave it in your car. If you are checking out at Wal-Mart, engage the clerk that is ringing you up. Say, "Hello, how is your day going?" or "You are doing a great job!" Another idea is to make a "no heads down" rule in your home where there is no looking down at a computer or cell phone during a conversation. If the person does not take the time to look you in the eye, stop the conversation until they do. Wouldn't it be amazing if we all would "be where our butt is"?" (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, page 159-160)
D. Resist the urge to answer calls or read or respond to texts, emails, etc. when you are visiting with a real person.
E. The real person in front of you to whom you are talking should take priority over the cyber person in your smartphone.
F. Don't answer another incoming call when you are on the phone with someone else.
G. They can leave a message and wait for you to call them back.
5. Limit the amount of time your children spend on computers, tablets, smartphones, video-gaming, and watching TV.
A. Setup controls in your router to block wicked websites (have someone help you if you don't know how to do it).
B. Keep your router in a place that is physically inaccessible from your children.
C. Consider turning it off at a designated time in the evening/night to shut down all internet in your home.
D. Make sure that your children can't get on a neighbor's open WiFi network.
E. Here are suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics on the amount of time children of different ages should spent on digital devices:

"Recommended Screen Limits for Children

Children ages 0 to 2 -- No screen time. Babies need all five senses to develop at this stage, and the digital screen only develops two of these senses, namely seeing and hearing.

Children ages 3 to 5 -- One hour per day. This is the age of make-believe. They have no logic at this age so they need to spend playtime with other children.

Children ages 6 to 12 -- No more than ninety minutes per day.

Teenagers 13 to 19 -- Two hours a day." (Ibid, page 168-169)

F. "Effective planning and boundary setting in today's digital world communicates caring. It says, "I cannot allow you to get into trouble. I love you too much for that. I want you to be the best person you can possibly be. So you have to trust me; my judgment is better than yours and my love for you demands that I say no when I must. Yes, you probably don't understand and almost certainly want to shout out 'you don't love me,' but one day you will be a parent yourself and will understand."

"Children do not always see it this way. How can they? They are too immature to understand, but the day will come when they will appreciate it, especially when they become parents! So, say no appropriately, consistently, and lovingly, and your children will one day bless you for it....Deep down children do not want spineless parents." (Ibid, page 172)
G. "Try to monitor your child's texting without being too invasive in older teens. Talking regularly with your children and building a strong, open relationship is always the best protection." (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, page 174)
H. "The most effective protection a parent can offer a child is to be intimately involved in their lives, both inside and outside the home." (Ibid, page 180)
I. "My experience has convinced me that, deep inside, kids really want their parents to put limits, not just on their techno use, but many other areas of their lives also." (Ibid, page 182)
6. Have your children turn off their cell phones and give them to you before they go to bed.
A. There is nobody that needs to get a hold of them when they are sleeping.
B. This will remove the temptation to text, post, surf, etc. while they are supposed to be sleeping.
C. This will also prohibit their friends who have no sense from waking them up in the middle of the night with texts, etc.
7. Consider taking a digital fast.
A. Fasting is Biblical and we should be doing it from time to time (Mat 6:16-18).
B. A digital fast where we keep all digital devices turned off for a day would do us all good.
C. It will also indicate to you whether you are addicted to technology.
D. "The fact is that anything we can't fast from owns us." (Ibid, page 161)
8. Be doers of the word, not simply hearers of it (Jam 1:22).
A. Don't walk out here saying, "Yeah, pastor is right about this stuff" and then change nothing in your life.
B. Make real changes where they need to be made.
C. Don't tell me how much you appreciate this series (if you did); tell me what you have changed in your life as a result of it.

XVII. Our digital technology gets between us and God
1. "Some pastors excuse smartphones, believing that church members may be using a Bible app to follow the sermon. More likely, members, especially the younger members, are playing games or texting others." (Ibid, page 71)
A. This pastor is not one of them.
B. If there is one thing that digital technology should not replace, it's your Bible.
C. Therefore, starting next Sunday, there will be no smartphones, tablets, etc. used during church for Bibles, outlines, or anything else in the Minneapolis Church.
D. Phones, etc. need to be turned off or put in airplane mode and put away out of sight during church.
E. Bring your paper Bible.
F. If you want an outline to follow along with, then print the one that I email to you every Saturday.
G. If you don't have a printer or cannot print the outline, let me know and I will print it for you.
H. Phones will not be used in our church meeting room except when absolutely necessary for communication, or for sharing a picture, etc.
I. This means no texting, social networking, game playing, etc. (including children) while we are in the church meeting room.
J. This is our time with God and each other, and nothing or nobody else need intrude.
K. If you have any questions on this policy, just ask.
2. Protecting our "Godspace"
A. God should be supreme in our lives.
B. We are to love God with our entire being: our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mar 12:30).
C. We are to keep ourselves from idols (1Jo 5:21).
D. Idol n. - 2. fig. Any thing or person that is the object of excessive or supreme devotion, or that usurps the place of God in human affection. [1557 N. T. (Genev.) 1 John v. 21 Babes kepe your selues from idoles.]
E. Anything that takes the place of God in our lives that we devote the most of our time and energy to is an idol.
i. This could be your wife, your husband, your children, your job, your hobby, your pleasure, or your possessions.
ii. This could also be the Internet, your computer, your smartphone, your tablet, social networking, texting, etc.
F. Our God is a jealous God (Exo 34:14).
i. God is jealous for our worship and our attention.
ii. We need to jealously guard our "Godspace" and not let anything encroach on the time and devotion that God deserves in our lives.
G. Consider the observations of Dr. Hart in The Digital Invasion:
i. "It's almost as if the distractions that we allow the digital world to impose on us is a form of an idol that we worship instead of God." (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, page 187)
ii. "If, as Keller suggests, an idol is anything that is so important to you that if you were to loose it, you would feel that life wasn't worth living, then could we become guilty of creating "counterfeit Gods"?" (Ibid)
iii. "Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flicker, Pinterest, texting, or just plain emails are "time ravenous." While speaking with Christians, we keep hearing one consistent message: "I'm finding it more and more difficult to find time for God." Pastors and church members, male and female, young and old, are all being impacted, if you want a spiritual life, you will have to make space for it. It won't come naturally." (Ibid, page 188)
iv. "The digital world has robbed our Godspace in another important way. It has made us informationally rich, but as a consequence, spiritually poor." (Ibid, page 189)
H. Has all the information about God, scripture, theology, etc. on the Internet made us more knowledgeable about God than prior generations who did not have it?
I. Have Bible apps on the phones and tablets of Christians which allow them to be able to read the Bible any time and any place made us better students of scripture than our spiritual forefathers were?
3. The dangers our digital technology poses to our ability to connect with God.
A. Consider what Dr. Hart has to say about digital technology negatively affecting our ability to connect with God:
B. "Scientists tell us that they are already seeing a diminished ability to reflect, meditate, or contemplate in those who over-engage with the digital world. With these decreased abilities, our intellectual capacity is also on the decline. While this foretells serious consequences for how we learn or develop our creativity, our greatest peril is that we can also lose our ability to commune with God. If we can't disengage from our digital technology and keep a vital Godspace alive, we may not be able to engage with God at all. We will not have the physical brain mechanisms to make this connection. Moreover, just in case you think this a little far-fetched, it would only take a neurosurgeon a minute to cut a few connections in the brain, and our ability to experience God would be gone. In other words, we need a healthy brain in order to maintain a healthy connection with God.

"Dr. Gary Small, a neuroscientist and expert on Alzheimer's disease and aging, has spent a lot of time researching the effects of the digital world on our brain. He has this to report:

Technology side effects appear to be suppressing prefrontal lobe executive skills in the brain. Today, video-game-brain, Internet addiction, and other technology side effects appear to be suppressing frontal lobe executive skills and our ability to communicate face-to-face.5

"Our conversations with others help us to have conversations with ourselves and in turn to have conversations with God. If you can't communicate in a healthy way with people, you will also struggle to connect with God and to have good self-awareness." (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, page 192-193)
C. "In essence, he states that when the prefrontal part of our brain, the part that does our main thinking, gets overloaded, it begins to shut itself down. Guess what is in our modern world that overloads the frontal part of the brain? Today's digital invasion targets mainly the frontal part of the brain, not only overusing it, but also depleting it of simple energy. This impairs our ability to think deeply, and consequently, communicate with God in a meaningful way." (Ibid, page 193)
D. "This now leads to the question, How can we protect our Godspace from the digital invasion? Christian psychiatrist Dr. Curt Thompson tackles this topic in his book Anatomy of the Soul. He proposes that the key to this protection lies in the realm of our spiritual practices, such as regular prayer, reading Scripture, and face-to-face connections with other people who can help us develop a vital and healthy relationship with God." (Ibid, page 193)
E. The importance of meditation in the scriptures was already covered in (Section II - The dangers our minds face from digital technology).
4. The need for silence.
A. One important commodity in our lives which the digital invasion has robbed us of is silence.
B. If we are going to experience God, it will only be by being still and silent.
i. There is a time for silence (Ecc 3:7; Hab 2:20).
ii. If we are going to know God, we need to be still (Psa 46:10).
iii. We must stand still in order to consider the wonderful works of God (Job 37:14).
iv. Consider v. - 1. To view or contemplate attentively, to survey, examine, inspect, scrutinize. 3. trans. To contemplate mentally, fix the mind upon; to think over, meditate or reflect on, bestow attentive thought upon, give heed to, take note of.
v. We must stand still a while if we are to be shown the word of God (1Sa 9:27).
vi. God can be near and we might not even know it (Gen 28:16).
vii. Many times, the Lord speaks in a still small voice (1Ki 19:11-12) and we must get someplace alone to hear Him (1Ki 19:13).
C. Dr. Hart had the following to say about the importance of incorporating silence into our lives if we are to maintain a sound mind:
i. "Silence is a "Sabbath of the mouth" and is about letting go of our inner distractions. It is probably the most challenging and least experienced spiritual discipline among Christians today. Technology is not only robbing our concentration but also our ability to just be alone and remain silent." (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, page 195)
ii. "It seems like the more our senses become numb to the subtle ways in which God is speaking, the greater our hunger is for sensory overload. It is ironic that what our soul longs for is silence and solitude, but instead we fill our lives with noise and activity to pack the void." (Ibid)
iii. "Our brain desires and is wired for relaxation and rest from life's busyness. Amazingly, when we practice inner silence, it actually helps to restore important parts of the brain, especially the prefrontal cortex that is the thinking part of the brain, thus increasing our capacity to be creative and productive." (Ibid, page 196)
iv. "Studies have shown that the average person today, surrounded by the cyber world, can only bear about fifteen seconds of silence." (Ibid, page 197)
5. The need for solitude.
A. "Without solitude it is almost impossible to have a spiritual life." (Henri Nouwen)
B. It is very important to take time each day to be alone.
C. Jesus Himself needed time alone (Mat 14:23; Luk 6:12).
D. Jesus exhorted His disciples to come apart into a desert place to get away from the crowd (Mar 6:31).
E. If we are to have silence, we must first have solitude.
F. "Whereas silence is a "Sabbath of the mouth," solitude is a "Sabbath of involvement." Silence is about letting go of inner distractions and solitude is about letting go of your outer distractions." (Ibid, page 197)
G. "Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." (Blaise Pascal)
6. "Retire from the world each day to some private spot, even if it be only the bedroom...
Stay in the secret place till the surrounding noises begin to fade out of your heart and a sense of God's presence envelops you. Deliberately tune out the unpleasant sounds and come out of your closet determined not to hear them. Listen for the inward Voice till you learn to recognize it. Stop trying to compete with others. Give yourself to God and then be what and who you are without regard to what others think. Reduce your interests to a few. Don't try to know what will be of no service to you. Avoid the digest type of mind--short bits of unrelated facts, cute stories and bright sayings. Learn to pray inwardly every moment. After a while you can do this even while you work. Practice candor, childlike honesty, humility. Pray for a single eye. Read less, but read more of what is important to your inner life. Never let your mind remain scattered for very long. Call home your roving thoughts. Gaze on Christ with the eyes of your soul. Practice spiritual concentration." (A.W. Tozer)

XVIII. But can't digital technology be used to preach and further the gospel?
1. Digital technology can be used to further the gospel, just like the technological invention of the printing press was used to further the gospel by printing Bibles.
A. We have a website for our church which truth seekers can use to find out about us.
B. We digitally record sermons and Bible studies and put them on the Internet for people to download and listen to.
C. I have a YouTube channel on which I post short video blogs to hopefully get God's seeking children exposed to the truth.
D. E-Sword and other Bible study programs are wonderful tools to help us search the scriptures.
2. But never forget, though God can use technology to accomplish His purposes, He doesn't need technology to do so.
A. The apostles turned the world upside down without even a printing press (Act 17:6).
B. They preached the gospel to all the world (Col 1:6) and to every creature under heaven (Col 1:23) without the Internet or modern transportation.
C. The devil needs technology to accomplish his goal of world empire, but God does not (Zec 4:6).

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