I was researching content for an article on why married men develop gaming addictions. I also wanted to understand why God's people when oppressed turn to TV for entertainment and comfort instead of reading their Bibles. And, then I came across this NY Times article: "We thought we could control it. This is going to the pleasure centers of the developing brain." "On the scale between candy and crack cocaine, this is closer to crack cocaine." "I am convinced the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children."
The Simple Request
It started out with a simple article request. A client wanted me to write an article about how addiction starts in a Christian marriage. I included details on drug addictions, porn, TV, shopping, sex, and alcohol. The client came back to me and said, "You forgot gaming." I shook my head in disbelief and asked if I'd heard correctly. "Did you say gaming, as in video games?" My client said yes.
As therapists, they were seeing more couples coming in for counseling where the husband had "checked out" mentally. I was shocked until I read their content about a growing trend in men escaping into virtual realities to avoid their marital problems. Gaming lets you create a virtual world where you become the person in the game. Whether it's shooting the enemy in Call of Duty or some other game, it was absorbing men's lives. They were detaching from their marriages and their wives were taking them to therapy for video game addictions.
Online Gambling and Casino Addictions
I read a little more about the topic and we prayed for men that were going through this. At about the same time, the Holy Spirit drew my attention to gambling addictions. I was working on content for a client and realized that online gambling had changed. They were now making the free offers not just once a month, but every day. I knew from past articles about developing new behaviors that it only takes 30-days before a new behavior becomes a pattern.
I wrote before about the dangers of online gambling with senior citizens that frequent casinos and play in online casinos. They see it as fun and enjoyment, but what they don't realize is they are becoming addicted to the free offers. Casinos encourage them to "check in" every day to reload online bonuses or look for more free cash offers. I asked for prayer over this because it was another hidden danger that was robbing God's people. It wasn't until I started working on rehab and drug addiction articles that I started to see a growing trend and the NY Times article that confirmed it.
The TV Habits I Needed to Correct
I love watching TV. Not mainstream TV, but I love action movies and reality shows that show a lot of action. But, one season, there wasn't anything on. I was flipping through channel after channel and I couldn't find a "new season" of anything to watch. The Holy Spirit told me to go read my Bible and I remembered getting angry, thinking, "No, I want to have fun. I want something that's going to take my mind off of my bills and the stresses of life." Like a spoiled child, I pouted. And, then I apologized because I knew I had to obey God.
I read my Bible and by the time I finished a few chapters, I realized I needed help. I would develop an addiction to streaming TV if I didn't make changes to how I viewed TV and what I used it for. I cut the TV off and recognized that I was using it as an emotional crutch to pacify me when I was dealing with fears or complicated finances. Instead of turning to God for help, I was saying, "Entertain me. Make me forget what I'm going through."
To break my TV addiction, I shifted my mindset to focus on ministry messages that would empower me. In order to start a new behavior, you have to replace it with a new habit. I started mine for 30-days initially to break my bad TV habits:
By the end of the month, I had more peace. After a few months, I had stopped watching regular TV altogether. If I did put on a TV show it was an older sitcom. I found older TV shows didn't show sex, drugs, and violence that are so prevalent and graphic in today's shows. I noted this in movies, too.
Increasingly Graphic Violence, Sex, and Drug Use in Movies
Several of the latest "comedies" show sexual sin and promote excessive drug and alcohol use. I've never seen so many movies that show young men and women binge drinking and experimenting with all kinds of drugs openly. Movies like Mike and Dave Need Dates, Girls Night Out, and Neighbors, openly promote loose sex, and drug and alcohol abuse. In one movie I turned on that aired on HBO or Netflix, kids were traveling from one city to the next. They asked for Mollie, meth, cocaine, and marijuana. They openly did drugs and the movie made it look like fun. There is no filter.
After I broke from TV, I understood why Father God was having me separate from this "crutch". It was separation anxiety I was experiencing. I felt dependent on content to fulfill a void. But, God wanted to be the gap filler so I could build confidence in Him. By walking away from TV, I had a better spiritual walk.
I understood how TV through the "fourth realm" tries to plant seeds of sexual sin and violence. Look at the crimes taking place in society. Kids are killing parents. Parents are killing children. Spouses are killing each other. People are randomly stabbing and shooting one another. A group of teen girls was caught in a plot recently. They planned to stab a classmate in the bathroom, but their attempts were foiled. So where are they getting this from?
There are movies like Mom and Dad, The Purge, The Killing of the Sacred Deer, and Mother that depict deplorable acts of violence and hatred. These are seeds that are being planted in vulnerable people and impressionable children. I haven't watched these movies and I refuse to. But, they're on Hulu, YouTube, and Netflix. Your kids might have access to them.
When I broke from TV, I understood that I needed to turn to Father God for comfort and help, not TV for entertainment and enjoyment. And aside from the violence and sex on TV, I was able to see an addiction pattern develop in one of my neighbors.
My Neighbor's Hidden Gaming Addiction
I had a neighbor once who had an action movie and gaming addiction. As soon as he would come home from work, the TV was on and speakers are blasting. Saturday mornings, the TV was on and the speakers are blasting. This lasted sometimes until 1 or 2 am. Sunday morning, the speakers were on and the TV was blasting.
His wife came and went, but he would stay glued to that TV. I can remember praying for him because at one point he lost his job. I would listen as he came in. The speakers were on and the TV blasting. You could almost time it. As soon as one movie went off it would quiet down until he found another to put on.
I understood what my client meant about how gaming addiction starts with men. Here was my neighbor trying to manage his emotions the best way he knew how. He was escaping into a virtual world that he thought would help him forget the huge stresses in his life. He was pacifying his pain.
The NY Times Article That Confirmed It
A short time ago, I came across the NY Times article that helped me put all these pieces together. The article is entitled, A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley "I am convinced the devil lives in our phones."
The article is about the damaging effects TV and games have on kids. In the article, researchers explore the hidden dangers of TV and phone addictions.
Chris Anderson with Geek Dad stated, "I didn't know what we were doing to their brains until I started to observe the symptoms and the consequences." He also stated, "We thought we could control it," but "This is going straight to the pleasure centers of the developing brain."
For his own children, Anderson recommends setting schedules for kids with tech and TV:
They confirm what I learned from a similar article I read about Facebook addictions.
TV, video games, movies, and online gambling are all designed to please the pleasure centers of the brain, the nucleus accumbens. This is located in the limbic system near the brain's center.
When this area of the brain is stimulated, it sends out feel-good messages to say, "I want more." Then here comes a test. You might go through a tough time when the bills pile up. A spouse might be diagnosed with a sickness. Or, a job loss can cause a financial setback. These can affect your Christian walk. Instead of reading the Bible verses to help you stand, the pleasure center speaks up and sends messages, "You know how to make yourself feel good. Go put on a movie."
That's not to say a movie every now and then isn't okay to watch. But, it's when it becomes your only way of dealing with your fears and anxieties that it can become problematic. It can lead to addiction as you look for ways to help you cope.
Read the CNN article: More Screen Time for Toddlers is Tied to Poorer Development a Few Years Later
Why Pleasing or Pacifying the Flesh Isn't the Answer
With addiction, the pleasure centers become hijacked by the addiction itself which is why when the Holy Spirit said to me to read my Bible, my fleshly response was "Why?" I was rationalizing that Bible reading wouldn't solve what I was feeling. I wanted entertainment. But, Jesus says, "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest, (Matthew 11:28). God, Himself tells us, "Call on me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you and you shall glorify me," (Psalm 50:15).
Let no sin rule over me
Ultimately, while TV, video games, and movies are for enjoyment, we need to prioritize the Christian walk. We also need to steer clear of dark content that can lead to sexual sin and violence. And, we need to ensure kids aren't watching it.
God's people sometimes turn to TV for soothing comfort because as kids, TV was likely used as a placebo to stop us from crying. It's then programmed into our minds to stop us from hurting or dealing with the stresses in our lives.
Not Aunt Bea's TV
Maybe your parents left the TV on when you were a child to soothe you. I'm not suggesting this was bad. I'm stating that TV was different. Lucy never attacked Ethel on I Love Lucy and the Professor wasn't doing drugs on Gilligan's Island. The Andy Griffith Show never showed violent shootings. Today's TV is different. It's dark content meant to plant seeds of aggression, promiscuity, violence, and sexual sin.
Helping Men Stand Strong
Men turn to gaming for comfort to escape fears or confrontations with spouses. A job loss or financial setback makes them fearful they can't provide for their families. They internalize their thoughts. When they can't find an answer, they look for an escape. This is an area where men's ministries need to shine a light to help men work through their problems with the Word of God, not avoid them.
Speak to and counsel men specifically about the addictions they are hiding in their virtual worlds. Discuss ways to overcome them with God's Word. That way they're stronger in their thought life when those pressures set in. That's when they need it most.
Standing on God's Word
With me, I was using TV as a crutch for enjoyment whenever I was feeling pain or anxiety. I was giving over hours of my time to content and only a tiny window for God. Hence, I felt like I had more problems because I didn't know that if I just stood on the scriptures and spoke over myself I would see that I already had the victory.
I didn't know how to speak over myself, my business, ministry, or my finances. For example, the Bible states, "God supplies all our needs." Now, instead of stressing over a bill, I'll stand on that verse. I now say, "Lord, I know that You supply all my needs, so I will not worry and I am anxious for nothing." I don't then turn on a movie for security. God is my security. I read my Bible more. As the Bible states, "I look to the hills. My help comes from the Lord." I look for the answers to come from Father God because I know Jesus said, "Whatsoever you desire when you pray if you believe you have already received it, it shall be yours."
I now understand when I speak what I need, like help for my finances or help with a class for school, I then need to look for the window God opens. He always provides for us and God promises to never leave us nor forsake us. TV never taught me that. And, it's obvious why. The devil doesn't want us to stand. But, God does. Keep reading your Bibles and stay encouraged!