It depends on where you get your statistics, but one source I consulted1 gave these as the percentages of Internet addicted people by age group:
- 13-17 75%
- 18-24 71%
- 35-44 50%
- 45-54 40%
- 55-64 39%
- 65+ 44%
Depending on the age, nearly half of the population is addicted to Internet use. Does that shock you?
What are we talking about when we use the word addicted? Techopedia2 defines it as “a mental condition characterized by excessive use of the Internet, usually to the detriment of the user. Addiction is generally understood to be a mental disorder involving compulsive behavior.” Just so we know what we’re talking about, compulsive means it’s an irresistable urge, compelling.
Years ago, before the Internet was such a big thing, the problem was the television. A lot of people have it on all day, from morning to night. I was babysitting some children so that their parents could go away for a couple of days. In the morning, one of the children came downstairs in his pajamas, and the first thing he said was, “Where’s the remote?” Not “Good morning,” not “Hello,” but “Where’s the remote?” I assured him we would indeed see something after breakfast and getting dressed but not now, and it wouldn’t be TV at all, but a video. He was not happy.
Internet addiction actually changes the way we think. We get used to processing little bits of information here and there, and our brains actually change the synapses and start to think in a different manner.1 We forget how we used to think.
Kids and adults alike can’t live without their phones.
I remember taking some teen girls to fabulous places here in Spain. One of them even had her phone at the table at dinnertime. She was constantly checking her phone, texting, and communicating with everyone else. She was, frankly, antisocial to the people around her while being social to her friends on the other side of the “pond.” When she was shown an amazing sight, she’d “wake up” for enough time to take a couple of pictures and instantaneously send them off into the ether. She’d continue to text again until being verbally prompted to take in another sight—which meant taking a couple more fast pictures. The whole time she was with us was spent on her phone. We had no meaningful conversations.
Contrast that with other young people who visited us. They had their phones with them, of course, but during the day, they were used only as cameras. These kids looked around, soaked in the beauty, and took pictures. Their visits were graced with some wonderful conversations about what really matters in life. We bonded in a special way. It was a blessing to be together.
Everyone knows Internet addiction is a real issue. Many of us suffer from Internet dependence. We have an automatic, compelling urge to be online … and it’s not good.
The Bible tells us we’re supposed to meditate on God’s Word day and night. How can anyone do that if a screen connection is screaming for his attention?
- This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success (Joshua 1:8).
- But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night (Psalm 1:2).
The Bible also instructs us to do something else all the time: pray. We’re supposed to be in communication with the Lord all the time. How can anyone pray when his attention is somewhere else?
- And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matthew 21:22).
- Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).
- Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
If we really desire to do God’s will, we need to disconnect. Does that seem radical? How can we do this? Let’s be practical.
No smartphones (or tablets) for school children. Why would a child need the Internet at all, anyhow? He can do research on a regular computer where Mom and Dad can see him. If he needs a phone with him in order to contact his parents, there are some cute phones on the market. Kids can use them to make parent approved phone calls. They can fast dial their parents. Children do not need to be connected. It is not good for them. Their minds need to be switched on for school, to learn, think, and play. An Internet connection for little kids only leaves them open to bullying, sexting, porn, and preditors. Besides those, addiction is a problem for about 70% of kids. That should scare you.
Schedule disconnected times. Start with meals. No phones at the table, not during the meal or afterwards, when the family is sharing together. No phones at all at the table—not for parents or children.
Family vacations are phone free—unless the phone is used as a camera.
The principle of substitution is all through Scripture. Instead of bad, we substitute good. I know the Internet can be used for good, and I sincerely strive to do that myself. But, it can also be addictive.
Ask the Lord to govern your online time. Determine when and where you will allow yourself to be online. Put your phone on vibrate, and answer it only when necessary.
Spend some time in Scripture to help you determine your priorities.
- For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20).
- Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
- Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).
- I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth (1 Corinthians 16:15-16).
- Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:11).
The Bible wants us to be controlled by the Spirit—not the Internet—and addicted to the ministry. What awesome goals!