Cell Phone Addiction – Ingredients of Behavioral Addiction: Feedback

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Last week, I was surprised to discover that goals can be an ingredient of behavioral addiction. This week, I was just as surprised to learn that feedback could be an ingredient of addiction–until I started reading.

In similar fashion to previous chapters, the author builds a case through a series of interesting stories that help to demonstrate the veracity of his claim. Below I’ve listed a few of the Alter’s example. As you review these examples, think about how Smart Phones and apps (perhaps technology in general) are designed to deliver feedback in a similar fashion.

  1. The child who pushes all of the buttons on the elevator. It would never happen without a simple form of feedback (the buttons light up). ELF – Elevator Scene
  2. Reddit’s “The Button” prank. If nothing happened when people pushed the button, then the word would have gotten out that it’s nothing, and the prank would have died. Instead, a little bit of meaningless feedback hooked millions of people and created yet another cyber-community built around…a button.
  3. Zeiler’s Pigeons. (You’ll have to look that one up on your own.)

Do you know what most of these examples remind me of? … The “like” feature in Facebook. … Text messaging. … My own addiction to email.

Seriously: I hate looking at my inbox and seeing the bold emails that are still unread. I simply MUST do something about those bold messages! There are times that I find myself just clicking on them so that the bold font will disappear–that is the feedback I have come to crave. It’s probably why I constantly feel the need to check email, stay caught up with email, and just get rid of email as soon as possible. It’s why during meetings when I check to see if I have any email, I don’t even check to see who sent it or what the topic is–I just look for bold font!

At first glance, it’s easy to think that this author is crazy. Who would possibly suggest that goals and feedback could be ingredients for behavioral addiction? But the more I evaluate my own habits, compulsions, and addictions, the more I see the genius in what he has to say.

 

Cheers!

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Alter, Adam. (2018). Irresistible The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Penguin Group USA.

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Cell Phone Addiction – Ingredients of Behavioral Addiction: Goals

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I just started Part 2 of Irresistible and the author is going to discuss 6 ingredients of behavioral addiction. The first ingredient is goals.

In all honesty, I would have never expected “goals” to be connected to behavioral addiction. Seriously: aren’t goals supposed to be a good thing? Aren’t goals what help keep us focused and motivated to be successful? Aren’t goals what help drive and produce Olympians?

But as I read the chapter, I was fascinated by the stories he shared and the ideas set forth. Let’s see, how could I sum it up in a nutshell???

I remember when my bother and sister and I got NES for Christmas one year (Nintendo Entertainment System). That was the greatest Christmas present ever! (…up until that time in my short life of course.) It must have been how Ralphy felt when he finally got his Red Rider BB Gun. Anyway, compared to today’s video games, Mario Brother’s was pretty simplistic. But at the time, it was quite a challenge for us. At first, the game was simple fun that we enjoyed each evening after dinner. We only had an hour to play, but we’d sit their together–all 3 of us–playing Super Mario Bothers and taking turns.

But as we improved our Mario gaming skills, we developed goals. …simple goals like advance to the next level, get more points, unlock additional secrets, and ultimately conquer the game. In time though, our simple goals became mild obsessions. We couldn’t wait to play Mario Brothers. In fact, I can remember lying awake in bed one night when the idea of the “warp zone” hit me. I could barely sleep just thinking about the opportunity to try out that idea.

And such is the potential trap of goals. We can become addicted to the dopamine hit that is produced by chasing goals and the constant leveling up. In the words of the author: “Streaks uncover the major flaw with goal pursuit: you spend far more time pursuing the goal than you do enjoying the fruits of your success. … These goals pile up, and they fuel addictive pursuits that bring failure, or perhaps worse, repeated success that spawns one new ambitious goal after another” (pg 117 & 120).

So beware: the very goals that can, in fact, produce a gold medal may also become an ingredient for behavioral addiction.

Cheers!

(Be sure to check out the bonus article at the bottom–even if you don’t read the whole thing, at least check out the graphs.)

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Alter, Adam. (2018). Irresistible The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Penguin Group USA.

Bonus Article: The Scary Truth About What’s Hurting Our Kids

The Adolescent Brain and Learning cont…

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I’m beginning to miss the other book I’ve been reading (Irresistible–The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping us Hooked), so I promise to return to that text next week.

But for now, I wanted to wrap up some of the valuable applications and advice from last week’s chapter about learning. As you may recall, the teenage brain is more capable of learning than an adult brain (to put it succinctly). However, the teenage brain still has a great deal of developing to do with regard to “attention, self-discipline, task completion, and emotions” (Jensen, p. 80). Thus, the author/doctor offers the following suggestions to help our adolescents maximize their potential for learning:

  • Keep instructions and directions minimal–deliver them orally, write them down, and keep it to a few steps or less.
  • “Set limits–with everything” and be clear about expectations and boundaries.
  • Be patient.
  • Remind them repeatedly that they are responsible for their own behavior.

Obviously, this does not make everything okay. We will still deal with some inexplicable behaviors from time-to-time. But the author suggests that this will help, and the advice is based on extensive brain science. Still…

“‘My brain made me do it.’ Your teenage son might be tempted to say when he decides to drive off with Dad’s car and not tell anyone until he comes home after midnight. ‘Well, no,’ you have to say, ‘your brain is sometimes an explanation; it’s never an excuse'” (Jensen, p. 82).

Cheers!

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Jensen, F. E., & Nutt, A. E. (2016). The teenage brain: a neuroscientists survival guide to raising adolescents and young adults. New York: London.

The Adolescent Brain and Learning

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As you know, I’ve been teaching my son to drive this past month. It’s been interesting… On more than one occasion, I’ve mentioned the “10,000 hours” of deliberate practice he needs (Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell). Let me tell you: that thought has been keeping me awake at night. 10,000 hours until he’s got this??? Seriously?!? It’s going to take him forever!

And it gets worse. Recent studies have shown that “10,000 hours” won’t necessarily lead to learning, except in environments that have “super stable structures.” And let’s face it: learning to drive is not exactly what you’d call a super stable structure. (New Study Destroys Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule)

But I’m encouraged by what I just read in The Teenage Brain: an entire chapter devoted to neural plasticity, neurons, dendrites, synapses, and gray matter… in other words–learning! What follows is great advice for parents and teachers alike.

At the risk of oversimplifying the science, let me share this excerpt from the chapter: “Teens have more gray matter than adults,” and “[Learning] is indeed more robust in teens. … the strength of [learning] was ‘way better’ in adolescents. … So what this means is that memories are easier to make and last longer when acquired in teen years compared with adult years. This is a fact that should not be ignored! This is the time to identify strengths and invest in emerging talents. It’s also the time when you can get the best results from remediation, special help, for learning and emotional issues” (Jensen, pp. 78-79).

If you are a parent or a teacher or a teenager, you’d better pause for a moment and let that sink in.

And for those of us teaching our kids to drive, hopefully we’ll get to experience this science first-hand, and we may just discover that our teens really can reach mastery in a little less than 10,000 hours.

Cheers!

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Jensen, F. E., & Nutt, A. E. (2016). The teenage brain: a neuroscientists survival guide to raising adolescents and young adults. New York: London.

The Adolescent Brain–Chemicals and the Connection to Addiction

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Before I continue on to the next chapter in my book, I wanted to share with you an interesting article that I read last month that relates well to what I’ve been reading about addiction and the teenage brain. I want to give credit to Mr. Smith for sharing this with our staff. It’s a fascinating study that was released just two months ago and I encourage you to check it out. Addicted to Your Phone? It Could Throw Off Your Brain Chemistry.

Cheers!

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Cell Phone Addiction – Your New Year’s Resolution

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As we head into the new year, I had started to think about whether or not I should continue to blog about cell phone addiction and the teenage brain. I’ve wondered if I should mix it up a bit and perhaps try another book (I have dozens waiting for me on my shelf).

But the other day as I was chatting with a friend, he was telling me about his daughter and that they had decided to give her a shot at having a cell phone. Unfortunately, within two weeks, they had noticed a change in her behavior and that she was already showing signs (obvious signs) of addiction to her phone. They quickly decided that the cell phone was not such a good idea.

Consequently, as we enter the new year, I resolve to:

  • …continue studying the teenage brain and finish my book The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientists Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults.
  • …continue reading about cell phone addiction and finish Irresistible The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked.
  • …continue to keep you updated about what I am learning and how it relates to the education of our children (to that end, I already have half of next week’s blog written).

My question to you is: what have you resolved to change this year? …especially as it relates to cell phone addiction and our teenagers? Not an easy resolution to make–but food for thought none-the-less.

Cheers!

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The Adolescent Brain and Decision Making

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This week I began reading Chapter 3 (Under the Microscope) of our text The Teenage Brain. I found it to be particularly fascinating as this chapter discusses neurons, cells, synapses, and chemicals. (I’ve find the chemicals of the brain to be especially applicable to learning. But more on that next week…) Without diving too deep into the science, let’s take a quick look a relevant application: “It takes longer for adolescents to figure out when not to do something” (Jensen, p. 55).

First, I think we want to consider some of the possible implications in school and education. If adolescents are a little more slow on the uptake when it comes to identifying the wrong thing to do, it means that the adults in their lives (parents, teachers, coaches, admin, …) need to be present to assist them in making the right decisions. In other words, our students are going to struggle convincing themselves to not procrastinate, to not use their phones while studying, to not text during math class, or to not sign out and wander the halls during English class. They are also going to struggle determining when to speak up or when not to say something–perhaps about a friend with suicidal thoughts or a peer who is vaping in the bathroom between classes. (And just in case you’re wondering, the right thing to do is speak up!) Our students still need our help and encouragement to make right decisions. They especially need to know that they are safe speaking to us and sharing with us the cognitive dissonance they may be experiencing.

Second, I think (and the science backs me up on this) as families we need to be chatting regularly with our adolescents about how best we “figure out when not to do something.” This conversation extends well beyond cell phones and studying to discussions of drugs, drinking, driving, sex, bullying, fighting, dating, media, relationships, etc… And as we adults have learned ourselves from experience, there are some things in life such that if we take too long to figure out not to do something, the consequences could be much more serious than just an F.

Cheers!

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Jensen, F. E., & Nutt, A. E. (2016). The teenage brain: a neuroscientists survival guide to raising adolescents and young adults. New York: London.