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The Lights Are On But Nobody’s Home: Digital Addiction and Families

The Lights Are On But Nobody’s Home: Digital Addiction and Families

When I have consults with potential clients, I rarely have the opportunity to ask why a couple is separating. They usually tell me before I even have a chance to make it to my desk. Common reasons I’ve seen clients separate include finances, infidelity and substance abuse. But there are a number of cases that have revolved around digital addiction, my shorthand term for devices, social media, gaming, texting, the computer and/or internet. Sure, most of us use digital media in some form or fashion for a good bit of our day, but how do you know if you have a digital addiction? One sign is that you choose digital media over your personal relationships with your family and loved ones, including your children. A chief complaint of clients is that the other parent is essentially an empty shell. Although technically at home, it is meaningless because he or she is engaged only in gaming, pornography and/or the internet.

I’ve seen cases where the digital addict ignores the kids after coming home at 5:30, going in the computer room, and closing the door until 11:45 or later every night.  He or she might as well have been at work the whole time. The other parent carries lots of resentment feeling like a single parent despite the fact that the other parent has been at home, merely feet away, with the door closed. Another concern is whether a child has easy access to pornography or other adult material when the parent carelessly fails to password protect or otherwise secure it. The digital addiction phenomenon is fairly common, and mental health professionals routinely deal with all kinds of addiction, even this kind. If you think you might have a digital addiction that you can’t limit on your own, talk to a professional while you still have your family.

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