INTERNATIONAL EXPERT WARNS YOUNG PEOPLE ABOUT THE DARK SIDE OF TECHNOLOGY
Potchefstroom Herald, South Africa
By Cheryl Botha
Photo: Cheryl Botha
Likeable, approachable and infinitely wise,
Brad Huddleston reached out to scores of
young people during his visit to Potchefstroom
It keeps family and friends connected, assists in emergency situations, provides immediate feedback and has taken knowledge to a whole new level.
But there is no doubt that this techno-revolution tsunami also has a downside that has to be managed properly.
Hundreds of gobsmacked teens hung on Brad Huddleston’s every word during his brief visit to Potch last month. This Christian television and radio show producer is also an international evangelist with degrees in Computer Science and Bible. He spent a lot of time talking openly to high school learners about digital addiction.
“And I’m not only talking about porn and video games,” he says. “I am pro media, electronics and social media, but new research coming out of South Korea is very disturbing.”
Their government intervention was prompted by people like 15-year-old Kim Min-woo who started having memory problems and flunking tests that demanded concentration. He couldn’t even remember the access code to get into his own house. Doctors diagnosed early onset dementia brought on by intense exposure to digital technology. Since he was five, Kim had always been in front of a TV screen or computer. He is mad about computer games.
“His brain’s ability to transfer information to long-term memory has been impaired because of his heavy exposure to digital gadgets,” said psychiatrist Kim Dae-jin at St. Mary’s Hospital in southern Seoul.
In this country 3-day long LAN parties are not uncommon. Youngsters sit in front of screens the whole time, without eating, drinking, sleeping or even going to the toilet. One couple was so engrossed in raising their ‘virtual baby’ that they forgot about their real one, who subsequently died of neglect.
No longer could anyone ignore that this mass addiction to “electronic cocaine” had caught everyone off guard.
National grades were plummeting, stress levels were on the rise, social dynamics were suffering. More and more teens were displaying concentration, memory, behavioural and discipline problems as well as sleep disturbances.
Worse still, diagnosable symptoms were being categorised as psychoses and given names - digital dementia (early onset dementia that resembles Alzheimers), anhedonia (the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable), nomophobia (no mobile-phone phobia) and FOMO (fear of missing out). Doctors were regularly treating cognitive dysfunction, manic depression and anxiety.
In his book “Thrilled to Death”, Dr. Hart, Dean Emeritus and senior professor of Psychology, Department of Clinical Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary says anhedonia comes largely from the over stimulation of pleasurable and exciting activities along with multi-tasking. He blames modern technology.
Fomo or nomophobia sufferers have panic attacks and anxiety-related symptoms like puffy eyes and gasping breath when they are without their cell phones, facebook or twitter. Others have neurological symptoms like eye twitches. This is according to Michael Carr-Gregg, an adolescent psychologist in Melbourne.
A recent online survey of 1,000 people in the UK found that almost 66 percent of respondents were affected, in comparison with 55 percent four years ago.
After investing millions in neuro-scientific research the S Korean government opened 200 detox centres for technology. Studies on the iphone in 2007 revealed that the brain actually undergoes physical and chemical changes. MRI scans show erosion of executive attention network in the frontal lobe. The brain is rewired for instant gratification and has to constantly be stimulated. Modern day teenagers find it impossible to sleep without music, depriving them of essential REM and deep sleep.
Huddleston says any digital activity for more than one hour pushes adrenal systems over the edge. Two hours of gaming has the same impact as snorting one line of cocaine.
Huddleston is the first to point out that digital technology is here to stay. In fact, it is increasingly being incorporated into academic programmes in schools.
“I care about your future. It reminds me of a spiritual conspiracy. It drowns out God’s voice, caused chaos in families and keeps you from the important things in life,” he warns. “We’ve got to learn to set limits, disconnect and take a brain break. We are going to have to master this thing before it masters us.”
* Copies of Huddleston’s books and DVDs are available from Marthie Bothma at 082 850 1200
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: Student Dion Buttle (left) records the action as Robert Cox interviews Crime Prevention Unit Sergeant Nigel Dalton. Brad Huddleston (right) directs the shot.
CHRISTIAN COLLEGE STUDENTS LEAVE POSITIVE DIGITAL FOOTPRINT
AMERICAN-BORN Brad Huddleston is in Mackay hosting a media camp at Mackay Christian College.
“On one hand we’re encouraging the parents to moderate their (internet) use and to do things positively... so on the positive side of things we want to teach them how to use technology responsibly,” Mr Huddleston said.
“They’re using it for a lot of negative things... there’s sexting, there’s taking inappropriate images of themselves.”
Mr Huddleston has a radio and television background, so for two weeks he teaches a few selected students what he knows about working in the media industry.
This is his ninth visit to Mackay Christian College. He laughed as he became a media “drill sergeant”.
“We give them deadlines and we push them really hard... we want to take this media that’s being used for a lot of bad stuff and we can actually leave a good digital footprint,” he said.
Monday night’s information session on cybersafety, held at the college, will actually be filmed by the students attending the camp. Mr Huddleston said.
POLICE WARN OF DANGER OF INTERNET EXCHANGES
YOU never know who you’re talking to on the internet. It’s a timely reminder after the Daily Mercury’s front page story yesterday about a 37-year-old cyber predator who sexually preyed on a 13-year-old Mackay girl.
Cyber predators are prevalent in Mackay. So much so that there is a dedicated police squad probing offences in the region.
Detective Senior Sergeant Anthony Lee, officer in charge of the Child Protection and Investigation Unit, said cyber predators were stereotypically male and aged in their 30s and 40s.
“The big message is for parents and caregivers to make sure they know what their kids are doing on the net,” Det Snr Sgt Lee said. “It’s not the safe haven that everyone believes it is.”
Det Snr Sgt Lee said instances of cyber predation had risen with the increasing popularity of social media sites.
And those who prey on minors are keeping up with technology too.
Sexual predators were forever “trolling through trying to find potential victims that they can offend against,” Det Snr Lee said.
He said on sites such as Facebook, people don’t have to provide any details to say who they are. “You can open an account as anybody,” he said.
In Queensland we are legally considered an adult from age 17.
So if you’re 17 and attempting to procure sex or naked photos from a 14-year-old, Det Snr Sgt Lee said “in the black and white of the law, it’s a crime”.
Crime Prevention Unit coordinator Sergeant Nigel Dalton has teamed up with United States resident and cyber safety presenter Brad Huddleston, who is currently in Mackay, to bring information and awareness about the dark side of the internet.
“We want to make sure people in schools, particularly students, understand where the line has to be drawn,” Sgt Dalton said.
The pair will host and information session on Monday night at Mackay Christian College drama room between 6:30pm and 9pm.
Mr Huddleston said with all the good that has “come from this tsunami of technology that’s washing over us... there’s obviously a lot of bad things (such as) cyber bullying, sexting, paedophilia”.
“And we’re trying to address that... we’re trying to get the parents involved,” he said.
CYBER SAFETY CLASSES FOR KIDS
An increase use of technology is adding to the amount of stress that we put on our brains. The large amount of stress we put on our brains is due to an overload of multitasking when using gadgets such as computers, smartphones, iPads, iPods and tablets. Living in a modern world surrounded by advancing technology, the human brain has been saturated and US cyber safety presenter Brad Huddleston likens it to a tsunami hitting the brain. Mr Huddleston, who also has a computer science degree, is in Mackay to educate students and parents about cyber safety — the way we use technology, the positive use of technology and to raise awareness of the dark side of technology. Mr Huddleston said a technology overload could cause people to no longer feel anything. This is called Anhedonia.
“When the technology boomed and started to take over I felt we didn’t keep things in balance,” he said.
“With that has come conditions such as anhedonia which is a condition of the brain that causes the pleasure centre, that drives pleasure for example if you like to hike or hunt or fish, to reduce the ability to experience that pleasure. “Technology gives us pleasure but when we overdo it the brain gets stressed so it has to rest. It has to relax and when we don’t give it enough time to recover from all the technology overload, we continually feed the brain.”
I am not telling you not to use technology, I love it, it’s a wonderful thing but let’s put the brakes on. Selectively use it and limit the usage.
Mr Huddleston is also in town working with Mackay Christian College students offering them a professional experience into the media world using technology to its fullest potential.
Now in its ninth year, the multimedia camp, which runs for two weeks for senior school students, has been successful and is now internationally recognised.
“Teachers help me identify a group of students who have various gifted talents, students who have a real passion for cameras, graphic design, script writing, drama and such,” he said.
“I want to help impart skills and point them in the direction for a professional career.
“I am also trying to teach them ‘hey you don’t have to use your technology for negative things. It can be used in a positive way.
“You don’t have to use it for ‘sex’ texting, you don’t have to use it for bullying, let’s create things that are going to have a positive impact and let’s do it well.
“I use this camp as a tool to get them all jazzed up about technology; because technology isn’t going to go anywhere unless electricity is cut, so let’s teach them to use it in a balanced form.”
Mr Huddleston is also author of, The Dark Side of Technology and has teamed up with Sgt Dalton, Mackay Crime Prevention coordinator and the next parent information session will be held at Eimeo State Road School.
Parents with children from all age groups are encouraged to attend.
Mum says no social media for kids
By Bill Hoffman
A SUNSHINE Coast mother has warned that Facebook was no place for children.
She said she was proud to be the mum who said “no” to her children's access to social media and has urged other parents to think carefully about the issue.
Angela Vogt, of Coolum, a publicist, advocated shutting children off from social media until they were at least 16 or mature enough to know who they are, be comfortable in their own skin and not be easily affected by negative comments.
“Parents should be looking at social media like they are allowing their kids into a giant world where everything is accessible by a mere few clicks. Most parents wouldn't allow their kids to go into the city at the age of 12 for hours with no supervision. Social media is, in effect, no different except it's online and kids can find everything in the one place,'' she said.
Ms Vogt said it didn't appear many parents understood that the physical protection of their kids had to be mirrored by their attention to on-line behaviour.
The mother of three children, aged from three to 12, said the social medium was fraught with dangers for the young, who weren't emotionally equipped to either deal with the consequence of its abuse or understand the potential consequences of their own words.
“Parents say they're okay with it as long as they're a Facebook friend and they can check. But life is busy, it's easy to become lax and check intermittently. It's lots of work to check through the thousands of wall postings that may be there and then they miss critical stuff.''
Sunshine Coast schools are rising to the challenge, running programs for students and parents to better understand issues.
Mark Ash, principal of Sunshine Coast Christian College, said yesterday the issue was significant.
He said access to the internet would only become greater and “we needed to be its master”.
Sunshine Coast Christian College and Caloundra Christian College have in the past week hosted Brad Huddleston, a pastor and IT expert who has run a series of seminars for students on the subject from a Christian perspective.
Ms Vogt said Facebook features that signalled pages friends “liked” had the potential to lead kids to access inappropriate material that they weren't on any personal track to find.