The Downside and Dangers of the Digital Age (Part 4)

XII. Having recently addressed the pornography problem in general and the clear dangers that the internet represents in that regard, including sexting, I choose here to limit my comments to the matter of cyber-sex and cyber-affairs. A. As a pastor, I have already seen the destruction of one marriage as a result of online behavior, and this was over ten years ago before the onset of today's mobile devices. B. “A recent study shows as many as one in five divorces now involve Facebook affairs.” (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, p. 103) C. It has never been easier for married people to have “affairs” (that's a euphemism for adultery) than it is today via the Internet. 1. Scripture warns us to stay away from strange women and “...come not nigh the door of her house” (PRO 5:8). 2. It is now much easier to digitally “come through the door of her house” without being seen by other people. D. Adultery can be committed via the Internet without physically committing the act. 1. Jesus taught that adultery can be committed in one's heart by looking upon a woman to lust after her. MAT 5:28 c/w PRO 6:25. 2. Job knew that the covenant that he made with his eyes forbade him to think upon another woman. JOB 31:1. 3. Eyes can be full of adultery. 2PE 2:14. 4. The thought of foolishness is sin. PRO 24:9. E. If you are found out to have been having an online “affair,” you will be excluded from the church for adultery. 1CO 6:9-10. F. If you have been having an online “affair” and are not yet found out, you will not escape the scrutiny, exposure or judgment of God except through prompt repentance. NUM 32:23; 1CO 4:5; HEB 4:12-13. G. This kind of thing needs to be avoided at all costs. PRO 4:14-15. H. If you play with fire, you WILL get burned. PRO 6:25-32. I. Heed the warning. PRO 7:24-27. XIII. Digital technology is highly addictive. A. There are some obvious factors in play that facilitate rapid and deep addiction: 1. Instant gratification. Virtually no labor or patience is involved. 2. Control. It is predominantly a one-sided relationship where the individual controls the content and satisfaction level. 3. Pleasure. It amuses, stimulates, distracts, excites and provides escape. B. “We came across a blog recently, where a man was explaining his relationship to his digital world: 'In real life people make demands of me. It takes energy to connect and talk and work through conflict and resolve issues. My smartphone makes no such demands on me. It offers pleasure 24/7. My brain craves the instant gratification and pleasures the text or email offers. The more I look at it and use it the more dependent I become on it.'” (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, p. 39) The Downside and Dangers of the Digital Age 12-21-14 Page 14 C. Internet use, like many other activities or substances, can be addictive if overused. 1. If you can't stop doing a certain habitual thing (surfing the internet, video gaming, TV, shopping, playing a sport, gambling, etc.) or using a non-essential substance compulsively (alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, etc.), you are addicted to that activity or substance. 2. addiction: Rom. Law. A formal giving over or delivery by sentence of court. Hence, A surrender, or dedication, of any one to a master. 3. To be addicted to anything is to allow it to have power over you. a. We are not to be brought under the power of anything, even lawful things. 1CO 6:12. b. We must keep under our body and bring it into subjection, including our brain which is prone to get addicted to dopamine, and not let it control us 1CO 9:27. c. Sin must not be allowed to reign (to have power, sway, or predominance; to prevail or be prevalent) in our bodies. ROM 6:12. d. 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. 4. Addiction is a form of what the scripture calls inordinate affection. COL 3:5. a. inordinate: Not ‘ordered’; devoid of order or regularity; deviating from right or rule; irregular, disorderly; not regulated, controlled, or restrained. b. affection: Of the mind: An affecting or moving of the mind in any way; a mental state brought about by any influence; an emotion or feeling. c. 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. d. 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. e. Inordinate affection is a sin which we are to mortify. COL 3:5. f. This means that we should mortify addictions in our lives, particularly non-essential voluntary habits or substances for the sake of pleasure, since we are expressly warned against being “...given to pleasures” (ISA 47:8). D. There are a few addictions the scripture allows and encourages. 1. A pastor and church members must be given to hospitality. 1TI 3:2; ROM 12:13. 2. The house of Stephanas was addicted to ministering to the saints. 1CO 16:15. 3. The churches of Macedonia gave themselves to the Lord and to the brethren. 2CO 8:5. E. Unbiblical addictions, including internet addictions, should be resisted and fled. F. The following are some quotes from The Digital Invasion concerning Internet addiction: 1. “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) 2. “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 The Downside and Dangers of the Digital Age 12-21-14 Page 15 sign of problematic Internet use; many think it is higher than this.” (Ibid, page 137) 3. “Just like many other things in life where excess is not best, overdosing the pleasure system can have very detrimental consequences....overloading the pleasure system gradually raises the bar so that you have to increase the level of stimulation to maintain the pleasure. This phenomenon is called the addictive process....Many of our Internet behaviors, such as gambling or gaming on the Internet, or even Facebooking, can do as much damage to the pleasure center as any powerful drug. The pleasure center can become so flooded that only the 'big' stimulants can get a message to the pleasure center. Little, ordinary pleasures are ignored because they do not have the power to overcome the flooding. This loss of ability to experience ordinary pleasure is called anhedonia, and it can create serious emotional disorders. In fact, anhedonia is one of the main symptoms of major depression.” (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, pp. 62-63) 4. “Social psychologists have come to believe that such an addiction is possible and call it 'FAD,' or 'Facebook Addiction Disorder.' They say it is a condition that is defined by long hours spent on Facebook---so much time that the healthy balance of the individual's life is affected. It is estimated that approximately 350 million people are now suffering from this disorder. According to Psychology Today, Facebook and Twitter are more addictive than tobacco and alcohol.” (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, pp. 102-103) G. “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) H. “Research has shown the most effective treatment plan for overcoming digital addiction is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. 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 The Downside and Dangers of the Digital Age 12-21-14 Page 16 emotions digital addicts feel are being tense, lonely, restless, withdrawn, angry, or useless. 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, p. 144) I. Addiction to the internet and digital technology is affecting troubled teens in worse ways than in years past. 1. 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. 2. “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) J. Dr. Hart's review of the 2011 Barna Family and Technology Report noted, “Very few adults or youth take substantial breaks from technology. This confirms that Americans are increasingly becoming dependent, if not addicted, to technology. Only 10 percent of parents and 6 percent of teenagers say they try to take one day a week off from their digital usage. The question that arises is whether families are in control of their technology or being controlled by it.” (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, p. 40) K. If you are struggling with digital addiction (or any type of addiction) you should seek counsel from your pastor and possibly from professional addiction counselors as well. 1. If your children have a digital addiction, you need to take as much as needed away from them to break the addiction. 2. It will not make your children happy with you, but it is your job as a parent to stop their destructive behaviors. 3. “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, The Downside and Dangers of the Digital Age 12-21-14 Page 17 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.” (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, p. 172) 4. “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.” (Ibid, p. 174) 5. “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, p. 180) 6. “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, p. 182) 7. Parents should set the example of digital restraint for children. Children will have a hard time accepting for themselves what their mom or dad are obviously not willing to do. L. Consider taking a digital fast. 1. Fasting is Biblical and we should be doing it from time to time. MAT 6:16-18. 2. A digital fast where we keep all non-essential digital devices turned off for a day would do us all good. 3. It will also indicate to you whether you are addicted to technology. 4. “The fact is that anything we can't fast from owns us.” (Dr. Archibald D. Hart, The Digital Invasion, p. 161) 5. Be doers of the word, not simply hearers of it. JAM 1:22. The Downside and Dangers of the Digital Age 12-21-14 Page 18
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