According to Reuters, a new study out of Greece shows that young adults with an "unhealthy attachment to Internet use" more commonly recall their parents as unaffectionate or neglectful. Researchers suggest that the way in which children bond with their parents will predict how they relate to others later in life, which would then predict their likelihood of "Internet addiction."
It's no surprise to me that the way in which a child relates to his parents can indicate how that child will relate to others. After all, it makes sense that a child will model his relationships after the first and most present relationship in his life. However, the link to overuse of the Internet intrigued me.
It seems this study attempts to establish that those who feel unloved by their parents look to technology and online social outlets for the love, companionship, and feeling of value that they lack. Yet, I argue that the Internet is no grand solution to loneliness, but may be a contributor to it. The Internet attempts to substitute the human connection when it cannot. We are constantly updated about Facebook friends, notified that a new Twitterer is following us, pinged that someone has pinned our "brilliant" idea to their Pinterest board.
I'm guilty of it, too. I take pride when I post an article (maybe even this post) on my newsfeed and receive Likes in return. But we need to be mindful to foster relationships with real people outside of cyberspace. Ten Likes is zilch compared to a hug from Dad or a listening ear from a supportive friend.
As we live in an increasingly digital world, it is important to teach this to our children. The best thing parents can do is model a balanced life of online and real life relationships. As stated by the experts of this study: "Being preoccupied with technology to the detriment of social contacts is something we are seeing more frequently in young parents and this offers a negative model for their children." We must use the Internet to facilitate relationships, rather than substitute for them.
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What's most concerning is that this study insinuates that lonely children seek to cure their loneliness through the Internet. Comedian Louis C.K. actually argued that our phones have become a device simply to avoid loneliness. What do we do when we start to feel alone? We text a million people in our phone book "hi." We are so deathly afraid of being alone.
But the comedian urges us to allow the loneliness in. To feel sadness. To learn to cope with the sadness, let it pass, and understand the stark and wonderful contrast between sadness and happiness once the woe disappears. Parents should not be neglectful, and I wholeheartedly endorse a warm and comforting parental approach, but parents must teach children that it is OK to feel sad and lonely and that—while the Internet contains answers to many questions—it is more of a distraction than an answer to gaps in the human connection.
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