Young People and Gambling Risks

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TODAY The Times had a front page headline expressing alarm at the pervasiveness of gambling promotion. This follows an editorial earlier in the month warning of the human devestation caused by electronic gambling. For many years there have been media campaigns, politicians, individuals, Churches, psychiatrists, and organisations set up specifically to highlight the dangers of Fixed Odds Betting Machines found in bookmakers. Alarm is growing quickly about online gambling available to anyone with a smartphone, computer or pad.

In 2016 the Gambling Commission reported that almost half a million children gamble weekly and 9,000 of these are already problem gamblers. These figures are likely to grow. The nature of online gambling is very similar to that of the machines on bookmakers. Experts believe that the speed of play, the ease of play and other factors evoke a ‘zone;, initially pleasurable, that can lead to addiction. It is always difficult to gather data in such a rapidly growing area, and there will always be different methodologies and disputes about interpretation, but the currently agreed figures are worrying enough.

Parents have a role to play of course. Ongoing informal education and information from charities and other organisations is vital too: a particular new demography of gambling for instance is that of educated young adults which includes Higher Education students.

Schools have a role to play too.  A House of Lord Committee earlier this year called for digital literacy to be the ‘fourth pillar’ of education, and few educationists would argue against that. Each school will organise digital literacy differently, some combination of specific classes and cross-curricular organisation. As well as skills development, teachers will be concerned with such activities as critical responses to digital media, risks attached to various sectors of the internet, citizen development for the digital future and so on. Education about drugs and alcohol is a basic part of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE). Gambling needs attention too.

There are many ways this can be covered. Maths can look at probabilities and ‘The Gambler’s Fallacy’, as well as the nature of random numbers. In the UK there are examples of young people having produced drama and video around the theme of gambling. Business studies can explore the ethics of gambling industries, and the roles of business and personal responsibility. Psychology/biology/sociology can look at the various levels of understanding addiction. Media education can examine advertising, the role of digital technology in affecting behaviours, stereotypes of gambling and addiction in film, television and other media. English can introduce literature (such as Dostoevsky’s The Gambler), promote group and class discussion, expressive writing, working with newspaper reports etc. Media/Communications/English students with more advanced skills can commit to a multi-level project which examines the many complexities of modern gambling. History can out gambling in a broader context.

Our site beatthefix.com provides a basis for project work. It is a developing site and in the near future will be publishing more suggestions and some free resources.

 

 

The Hidden ‘Hidden Addiction’

GAMBLING is called the ‘hidden addiction’ for several reasons. The main one is that you cannot ‘see’ it in the way that you can see a substance addiction, although even here it’s true that many functioning or highly functioning addicts will hide their state. Gambling addiction has a low public profile; there is generally more ignorance about ir than substance addictions. In service provision for helping those with severe gambling issues, there is little in the way of national strategy and provision, just one NHS clinic in the UK. GPs and probably most psychologists and psychiatrists lack experience of it. Only 5% of people with gambling problems seek help, only 1% receive it. These figures are much lower than, for instance, those for alcohol addiction.

Addiction is a mental health issue. Unfortunately, addiction is often made separate to mental health. Service providers talk about ‘mental health and addiction’ for example. This is despite the fact that the majority of people with addictions also have other mental health problems such as depression, bipolar, anxiety or a second addiction. In this confused state of affairs gambling addiction receives less than the attention it requires. A current statistic is that 0.7% of the polulation have severe gambling problems but in Northern Ireland and Wales the figure is higher. Add to this estimates of less severe but significant and ‘at risk’ gamblers and the figure rises to 5% of the population. Other mental health conditions are classed on scales of severity. Depression for instance is roughly mild, moderate or severe, though other ratings such as Beck’s identify four degrees.

Gathering data for epidemiology of addiction is notoriously difficult, and more so in the case of gambling addiction. While stigmatised heavily still, there is less stigma around substance addiction than gambling. Individuals are more reluctant to reveal a gambling addiction, and it is often harder to spot by those close to them. That is, of course, util the ‘rock bottom’ is reached in most cases. Some people will, though, modify gambling behaviour with lesser shocks.

All mental health problems can affect anybody in society, rich or poor, young or old, educated or not, male or female. However such a statement needs interpreting carefully. In public discourse we tend to hear most from the better educated, usually those with more material assets and cultural capital. It is well known that middle class people are better equipped to access scarce mental health resources. This, of course, is a generalisation and as such can never apply to individuals with unique life stories and contexts.

However, as in the the body politic as a whole, those most voiceless tend to be the more deprived in society. Deprivation can include material, educational and cultural capital. There are unquestionable demographic strata linking deprivation with mental health problems. While those we are likely to hear from most about the impact of gambling addiction provide vital testimonies, we need to be aware that many who suffer the results of gambling have little or no access to having their stories heard.

We are not surprised that bookmakers and their electronic gambling devices cluster in deprved areas. It’s important to recognise that the money lost to gambling by many is phenomenal given the mean disposable income available. Proportionally, like regressive taxation such as VAT, a loss of as little as £50 can lead to a spiral of debt, loss chasing and other negative consequences. It has been repeatedly pointed out the design of machines is responsible for gambling behaviours in those who can least afford to play. The proliferation of machines, not just in bookmakers, but in arcades, pubs and bingo halls, provide enticement to play fast and hard. Whether the stake is £2 or £30 or £100, the impact of any losses will be directly proportional to the circumstances of the player.

It’s true, of course, that as well as slots, similar dangers accrue to online casino-type games. Here, interestingly, research suggests that the heaviest player population is young professional classes. It’s early day sin data gathering but the take-up of online gambling opportunities seems more than likely to increase. With the normalisation of betting and gambling – and this includes not only advertisements on tv around sporting fixtures but lotteries from big charities – a major worry is about children’s behaviour in the future. May of them may already sitin a family setting when watching a football match and their father or sister may be more interested in the time of the first corner, or the score at half time rather than the game itself. In this, as most things, parental guidance and some educational input are important.

It is often pointed out that most people bet and gamble responsibly, which is true. The tension thus arises between regulatory practice and personal freedom (business freedom too).

It does seem, though, that some electronic gambling machines by their very design encourage dangerous gambling habits, firstly in those who already are vulnerable via pre-existing problems, and secondly by enticing new users who become ‘hooked’ on the experience. If ‘reponsible gambling’ is to mean anything, a good share of the responsibility must rest with those who provide the machines. No matter how low the stakes become, if the design does not change the money will keep pouring in from those who can least afford it, the voiceless and largely hidden population suffering the ‘hidden addiction’ affecting the populace as a whole.

 

Addiction and Personal Responsibility

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OF ALL the many terrible attributes of addiction one which can be the most painful is being not understood and being blamed for one’s own misfortune. Stigma against all mental health problems abounds in our society. It can heap on an ill person the vicious taunts of those who state or imply that she or he is worthless, scum, a moral weakling, something unclean. Indeed an addict is weak but not in those ways. More weak in the way that anyone who is ill becomes weak. Bullies, of course, choose weak and vulnerable people as their targets.

Imagine giving someone with an alcohol problem a bottle of whiskey as a present. Then imagine that the person who drinks the stuff becomes very ill, maybe even dies. Then the fool who gave them the alcohol says in defence, “Well, they didn’t have to drink it. I didn’t make them. They could have given it to the local church as a prize in their raffle.”

It is unfeasible to think that substances like alcohol or other drugs will ever go away, and addiction is likely to always be a problem. But to deliberately and knowingly provide someone who is the vulnerable state of addiction with a product that is deadly to them, while not illegal, is morally reprehensible. The fact that you cannot stop the production and distribution of alcohol and other hard drugs does not remove your responsibility, your moral responsibility, to do whatever you can to limit access by those in danger. Any decent person would surely be appalled if just that was being done by high street business brands.

The very nature of addiction is that it robs a person, disowns them, of their power of responsibility. It literally embeds neural pathways which disrupt inhibition while enhancing compulsive excitation circuits. There are thousands of research studies about the nature of addiction, but those in recent years which use brain scanning are pointing more and more to precise neural substrates which are involved. Whether addiction is ’caused’ by social factors, adverse childhood experiences, culture, experiential learning, genetics or some combination of these is not the point: the result is the same.

While the good news is that many, probably the majority, of people with addiction can and do recover – often with no support from agencies or health providers – the fact is inescapable that people who are totally at any given time pierced by addiction are vulnerable to exploitation. To say that society should provide opportunities for individual recovery is a good thing. But it is a very bad thing for society to turn its back on the merest whiff of business or industry deliberately exploiting human misery. It is the responsibility of every citizen to fight such evils.

Digital Education – more than skills

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Much is written about the future of education and one sure prediction is that much more will be written in the future. While some ideas urge us to pull back from technology and information – to embrace nature, ‘creativity’ ad humanities, most that’s written is about the technological developments in society.

Many of the focal issues are ‘practical’.  What jobs will there be, what skills will be needed in the future? In some ways the situation is analogous to the industrial revolution which required literacy and numeracy skills among a large number of workers; these became first the new lower middle class of administrators, and the working class clerical workers. When production required more than literacy and numeracy, specialist engineering, scientific and other skills developed. In Victorian times, though, a humanist theme of education for its own sake as developing the ‘whole person’ brought to the curriculum music, art, literature, history the wider humanities. Nor was this an imposed  curriculum from loftier folk: working class self-education and mutual education included not only skills acquisition but prized the broad human development learning and sharing. Literacy, for instance, was not only a means to better oneself financially, but offered a portal into literature, history, political debate and more.

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The situation today is different There has been a sea change in educational culture and policy, and the way that most people perhaps tend now to see education in utilitarian terms, a means to an end. Humanities generally are much less prominent in discussion about education. Sociology and Psychology are discussed but with a positivist perspective.

‘Digital media education’ will usually refer to skills-getting for flexible employment in current and new sectors. ‘Digital psychology’ is a new concept which refers to marketing. Business and marketing futures are at the broad centre of discussion of digital futures. Digital takeover of agriculture, engineering, transportation, logistics and everything else entails digital-relevant training. The UK’s largest export sector by far is financial services, now of course impossible to imagine without their digital medium. Entertainment, culture generally, music, the written word – all and more are increasingly ‘digital’.

There is a passionate and widespread enthusiasm for all things digital. This is, perhaps not coincidentally, paralleled with a near mania for all things ‘neuro’. Since digital technology now allows for non-organic interaction with biological neurons, not surprisingly the prospect of cyborgs or a breed of homo digitalis seems something more than science fiction. With the massive acceleration of computer power, and the interconnectivity of all things digital, by 2050 or sooner human beings will be either literally or via extension connected with a vast global information ‘brain’ – not just specialised in one thing, but more akin to the parallel processing of the biological brain.

There can be no surprise that the future of education debates focuses so much on digital technology as an ‘aid’ to learning – but this is a far cry from overhead projectors. These ‘aids’ it is currently proposed may replace the need for human teachers altogether. It will (as it is now to a relatively limited extent) be possible to dispense with learning institutions’ brick and mortar completely.

While all of this may come to pass or not, it’s worth thinking more deeply and generally about the human requirements from education. This has never been resolved which is why theory after theory of education has followed from Socrates onwards. We do need to guard against being swept along and reacting only as things come along. It’s not clear that enough is being done to think about the future. Such thinking is largely speculative and can easily turn to fantasies based on utopias or dystopias. Yet it has to be said that given striking contemporary failings in education which from the hindsight of the future may appear somewhat risible, the education of a five years old who will be 20 in 15 years time needs to take the future very much into account: we should at least try to think ahead in ten or fifteen years periods.

Finally, it is doubtful whether education has ever taken seriously a commitment to prepare people for citizenship, to act as political citizens within the structures of power. The political processes are witnessing change just now through social media etc but this is superficial. The challenge for democracy is to produce citizens who have some understanding of how power is distributed in society and the world. This power will increasingly be found in Digitalia and not transparently so. Digital media education should be about more than teaching digital skills. It should be essentially about understanding digital media.

 

Ade Johnston

A Life Pervaded by Addiction: an interview with Joe

The common phrase ‘problem gambler’ is thrown about very casually as if the compulsive gambling behaviour that so many experience (about 5% of the UK polulation including the 0.7% of life threatening cases). Too often a person is defined as an ‘addict’ or a ‘problem’. People do have problems and addictions but to identify them buy labellig them only in these terms is dehumanising and wrong.

The way we all too often label people needs challenging. Hence we have anti-stigma campaigns. There are many such campaigns around mental health. People should not be labelled for many reasons: one is that it lessens or belittles them; another is that it isolates people by their being seen as ‘different’; a third is that negative labelling deters people from seeking help and support.

This interview with Joe reveals a life of suffering from compulsive gambling. Rather than facts and statistics, academic studies, medical discourses, we think it is essential and in many ways more powerful and relevant to listen to the unique, individual voices of people who face the danger of being boxed into a dehumanising label and stereotype.

What’s also brought out in this interview is that problem gambling involves far more than individuals who gamble. It includes the environment and culture. It also includes the design of gambling machines in our digital age – specifically, in Joe’s case, fixed odds betting terminals and online gambling.

How prevalent is addiction?

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Following on from the previous post, our coffee discussion turned to the prevalence of addiction in the UK. We were both coming from a belief that it reveals an astonishingly large number of people in trouble. We believe it is a massive social problem that is not getting the attention it requires.

Later reflection considers the following:

  • There is a problem understanding what may be referred to as addiction. There is a very large number of people whose addictions have resulted in actual or potential life ruin involving finance, employment, social status, relationship breakdowns, a range of severe physical and metal health problems, and death.
  • However, there are many more cases where people are nearing these severe states. There are many whose drinking or other substance dependence are working slowly to take years off their lives. Nicotine addiction is an an obvious case. This applies to behavioural addictions such as gambling also, and statistics for these groups are hard to achieve if at all.
  • Unknown numbers of people are addicted to over the counter painkillers or prescribed medicines. Unknown again is the number of people illegally ordering prescription only addictive medication online.
  • There is a range of other addictions which are now taken seriously by researchers and treatment providers such as eating disorders, sex addiction and internet addictions.
  • Many ‘normal’ behaviours share characteristically common features of addictions. Compulsive shopping, perfectionism, workaholism for instance have similar neural substrates to all addictions.
  • A research paper has suggested that 47% of Americans are addicts in some sense.
  • Statistics for all addictions taken together in the UK are hard to come by. Limited statistics are available separately, e.g. for alcohol, opiates, marijuana (usually treated as psychological dependence),  gambling, amphetamines, heroin, cocaine.
  • It is extremely difficult to gather statistics. Since many addictions are to illegal substances and do not get reflected in medical interventions for instance, the true scale of actual addictions to a substance or behaviour can only be estimated.
  • Nevertheless, what figures there are contribute to an understanding of the prevalence of addiction. 9% of men and 4% of women are dependent upon alcohol. In Scotland there are 50% higher rates. The Gambling Commission also reflects geographical variation:

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  • Such figures cannot disclose current trends nor the breakdown of specifics of for instance, types of alcohol behaviour, methods of gambling. As for gambling, since it is increasingly done at home using online technology, only sources such as publicised personal catastrophes, some suicides, treatment statistics are available. The stigma associated with addiction is that even many severe cases will be attributed to financial ruin or depression etc.
  • For every addict at the extreme negative end of the spectrum, many more people will be affected, especially children and families. The problems of addiction therefore affect very large swathes of the population.
  • Besides the immense personal costs and suffering, society as a whole spends many billions of pounds because of addiction. These costs relate to health, crime, lost productivity and the welfare bill.
  • We aren’t remotely expert or knowledgeable but believe the true rate of addiction is extremely high. It needs much more urgent focus by policy makers across government services and within government, especially:
  1. Researching and acknowledging the scale of the issue as a whole rather than by reference to particular addictions.
  2. Identifying social, environmental, business contributions to addiction and curtailing them. For instance, prohibiting products designed to entice vulnerable people or induce people towards addictive behaviour, such as fixed odds betting terminals, advertising, online design; minimum unit pricing for alcohol.
  3. Raising awareness among professionals and ancillaries; ensuring destigmatisation among support providers and workers.
  4. Not allowing loss of government revenues to be used as an excuse to prevent public harm.
  5. Acknowledge once and for all that addictions represent one of the nation’s main mental health disorders. Integrate metal health services, educate staff, resource much greater treatment provision.
  6. Roll out public health promotion and advertising.
  7. Rethink drugs policy. Seek best practices globally for decriminalisation or legalisation. Emphasise treatment over punishment.
  8. Immediately produce policies and strategies to support the many people who suffer dual diagnosis disorders.

Addiction Musings (1) Introduction

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We’re beginning a series of posts ‘musing’ about addiction. Musing rather than thinking too hard, as the subject is so vast and split into thousands of specialist research specialities. Not to metioned the all too often ignored experiences and ideas of people who have personal acquaintance with addictions.

Words – any words – can be highly misleading. The word ‘addiction’ does not refer to a thing that can be seen or otherwise sensed, weighed, measured. It is helpful to think of it as just a signpost to hundreds of different states which are often barely understood by addicts themselves or expert specialists. No one has, and no one ever will, come up with a unified ‘theory of addiction’ because unlike, for instance, things that can be weighed or measured or seen in a microscope, there are no tight borders around the term. Everything is blurred. In everyday life people talk about being ‘addicted’ to such-and-such a television series or type of biscuit. Such usage of the word belittles the suffering of  severe addiction states.

On the other hand, it is accepted as a fact that not only substance dependence but behaviours can be characterised medically as addictions. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition which is one of the main diagnostic manuals used by psychiatrists identifies ‘gambling disorder’ as a clear-cut case of addiction.

Increasingly mentioned in the media are things like ‘internet addiction’, ‘smartphone addiction’ and ‘social media addiction’. Serious research has yet to suggest whether these are ‘true’ addictions – but they certainly have many of the characteristics of addictions.

An interesting case of possible addiction relates to climbers for whom climbing is one of the most, if not the most, important part of their lives. They have reported ‘withdrawl symptoms’ of depression and anxiety if injury prevents their activity. It’s well known too, that many love exercise and the gym so much that they would feel bereft without them. Activities such as exercise and climbing are known to relese chemicals i the brain which produce a ‘feel good’ factor and in some cases, especially when combined with risk, a definite high or ‘buzz’.

On this site we mean by addiction a condition which involves compulsive activity over which an indidual feels they have little or no control, and which produces extremely negative consequences. Negative consequences involve physical and mental health, financial problems, relationship breakdowns and other serious problems – including, of course, death. In some cases, people suffering with addiction will be ‘in denial’ and not realise or admit the devestating consequences of their behaviour; equally, many are only too aware yet feel they cannot stop the compulsion. Invariably, the lives of those close to somebody suffering from addiction are seriously affected too.

More people than today used to talk of a ‘demon’ within, such as ‘the demon drink’. Interestingly, the word addiction in mediaeval times was used to describle priests’ giving themselves up to God. Addiction was a contract, and in Roman times a slave would be ‘addicted’ to a master. We still talk about being enslaved by addiction.

There is still a great deal of stigma around those suffering with addiction (and other mental health ailments too). It is seen by some uninformed people as a character weakness or a moral flaw. In reality addiction is a mental health condition that requires every bit as much understanding, research and treatment as, for instance, depression or anxiety.

In fact, depression and anxiety are often the primary disorders which lead people to ‘self medicate’ or take part in risky behaviours in an attempt to alleviate suffering: addiction may follow (and when it does it usually makes the original conditions worse).

Addiction can strike anybody irrespective of age, gender or social class. While it is true that some addictions correlate with factors such as deprivation, poverty and social exclusion, many addictions do not. There are plenty of teachers, police officers, doctors, nurses, politicians, judges who succumb to alcohol. Online gambling prevalence is highly correlated with middle class professionals. Away from ‘skid row’ stereotypes, thousands of ‘respectable’ people are becoming addicted to over the counter painkillers and prescription only drugs obtained illegally (mainly online).

Current research shows that 9% of men and 4% of women are physically dependent upon alcohol. That is a staggeringly high figure and it may well increase.

Addiction is not, then, something which happens to a few unfortunates or degenerates. It is almost certain that somebody reading this now is on the road to addiction if not already there. And it is completely certain that everybody knows someone suffering from addiction be it at home, at work, among friends. And for each of these people, many more will be suffering too – from their addiction.

 

Avoiding Internet Dangers

Here’s a wonderful half hour talk by Nir Eyal. In it you’ll hear about ‘dark patterns’ that some top names use on their websites to entice you to do things you don’t want to – such as NOT ticking a box to refuse a subscription. Plenty of advice on work/home spaces and disconnecting from media during leisure time. Also, advice on how to reduce time on digital devices.

Children and Social Media (2)

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WE LIVE in a Britain – or a ‘developed country’ – where many fears and anxieties are circulated by the day, one after the other and reinforced by the social media and the mass media (the former still heavily influenced by the latter). Many of these fears such as whether or not burned toast gives you cancer (that ‘meme’ came and went a few months ago) may seem more than offensive to those in the ‘rich countries’ whose fears are more about paying the rent or feeding the family, and those living under terror systems of war and tyranny or starvation.

Do we worry too much about our children? Do we worry, in particular, too much about their use of social media and the internet? Probably the answer is ”Yes’ which is not at all the same as saying we should not have genuine concerns at all. By and large, the news media have always favoured hyperbole, exaggeration and sensationalism. Why? Because we like it. So, are the claims about negative impacts on young people by the digital media to be swallowed whole?

For instance, an article called Electronic Screen Syndrome: An Unrecognized Disorder? written by a doctor makes some startling claims about the deleterious effects of ‘screen time’. She actually proposes a new diagnosis called Electronic Screen Syndrome. This is fairly typical of many articles flooding the electronic and print media about how parents and others should be very very worried about what the social media and internet are ‘doing’ to kids. Unsurprisingly then, in the USA (and China and Japan) there has been a growing provision of private ‘digital detox’ clinics, retreats and counselling. The Independent reports:

Children refusing to put down their phones is a common flashpoint in many homes, with a third of British children aged 12 to 15 admitting they do not have a good balance between screen time and other activities.

But in the US, the problem has become so severe for some families that children as young as 13 are being treated for digital technology addiction.

One ‘smartphone rehab’ centre near Seattle has started offering residential “intensive recovery programs” for teenagers who have trouble controlling their use of electronic devices.

The Young Health Movementa development from  The Royal Society for Public Health

have produced a report called #StatusofMind  Their summary page about social media and mental health contains the following infographic:

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and this interesting video .

Here’s another – one of thousands that could be chosen about the dangers of handheld devices in general:

Kids Who Use Smartphones Start Talking Later

Growing evidence suggests that screen time may have some negative consequences for young children’s development.

In a new study of nearly 900 children between six months and two years old, researchers found that those who spent more time using handheld devices were more likely to have delays in expressive speech, compared to children who didn’t use the devices as much. For every 30 minutes of screen time, there was a 49% increased risk of expressive speech delay. The research, which was led by pediatricians at the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada, was presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.

This post could go on and on but you get the picture. Behind the scenes in Academia more and more research is going on. As is usually the case media reporting of studies may be very hyperbolic. In reality there’s a consensus that one study on its own does not mean much, and that there are no agreed, watertight findings about children and the internet. Nevertheless we do well to be vigilant. Just on an everyday basis, for instance, if parents are texting or whatever in the family home rather than engaged in conversation, what do kids learn?

There are many specific dangers well addressed by specialist sites relating to such things as pornography, bullying, grooming and generally inappropriate and/or exploitative content. It’s very much relevant to add to the list online gambling. Research from Queen Mary Univeristy of London states that researchers point to recent statistics from an international research review which suggest that 77 to 83 per cent of adolescents are involved in some kind of gambling, and 10 to 15 per cent of adolescents are at risk of developing serious gambling problems.

A therapist writes in an important article in The Guardian that Suddenly, and scarily, the threats are revealed. The rise in digital addiction is stark: 23% of teenage boys gamble online; indeed, teenagers are more likely to gamble than they are to smoke or do drugs

Interestingly, she points out what many addiction experts and addicts themselves know as certain, that gambling addiction whether through digital devices or not serves in part to soothe distress and tensions, anxieties, to self-medicate for stress, to escape from the real world of problesm and unhappiness to an empowered virtual world. And adults do just the same. Kids learn, are socialised by the people around them so:

What is possible is teaching children emotional intelligence: how to normalise uncomfortable feelings and manage them. We need to practise what we preach and provide good examples for them. Rushing in, stressed from work, we can choose not to pick up our tablet to self-sooth. Rather, why not take a walk in the park with our children and talk about how our stress reduces as a result?

It’s not easy being a parent and it’s just got harder.

So in conclusion, we have to recognise that some of the concerns about social media and children are exaggerated, and we should also recognise the great potential benefits of digital communication, the digital world isn’t going to go away. We need to be aware, to learn and to admit this new strand into our capacities for nurturing the development and growth of young people.

Making Facebook more productive

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Facebook gets some flack. Some people swear they wouldn’t dream of using it which sometimes implies that those who do are somewhat ‘wrong’. Concerns about content, digital privacy and psychological issues are legitimate and worthy of consideration.

However, as well as being a great way to keep in touch, have some fun, challenge the dominant and arrogant discourses of power (politics, journalism etc.), Facebook offers people a great way of filing, joining in discussion on special interest via closed or open groups, and setting up pages for organisations, business, and special interests. Business usage especially is increasingly related to integrated digital marketing.

As a personal user, I mainly use Facebook as a bookmarking tool. I filter posts relevant to my own peculiar interests so that they are only visible to me. Unfortunately, I often forget to change the setting so that they leak out as public shares which does little harm apart from filling other people’s timelines with junk – although I have been recently surprised when one such ‘leak’ whipped up a somewhat emotional controversy among people I don’t know.

What people may not know is that it’s possible to save posts for looking at later or keeping for reference. It’s very simple to do so and the process is explained here.