Interview With Dr. Kimberly Young (Jan-Feb 2002)

By Matt Dabbs

by New Wineskins Staff
January – February, 2002

New Wineskins: What led you to study online use and the affects on society?

Dr. Young: My friend called me in 1994 and was concerned because her husband was spending time in online chat rooms and had become addicted.

New Wineskins: What specific moral pitfalls exist for online users today?

Dr. Young: Online “affairs” are like affairs in the physical world. We really have to look at what our own values are. What is an affair? What are our values? What takes away from marriage also has a damaging effect — it’s a big moral dilemma. People rationalize and say online relationships are not physical, but it certainly causes pain of a “real affair.” I spoke with a couple in Alaska where the woman was chatting online with a man in Florida, and she was creating a fantasy about going to the beach and drinking piña coladas…

New Wineskins: I remember a song about this kind of meeting even before the internet became popular. Something about piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. The man answered a personal ad in the newspaper and the woman who placed it turned out to be his wife. What specific advice could you give for a person who has a spouse with an internet addiction?

Dr. Young: In the aftermath of an affair the issue of trust is jeopardized in a couple. In an online affair there is the same kind of secrecy and lies as in a physical affair: lying and saying your working on the computer, that it’s something benign, and sleep patterns change. When the truth is revealed, couples need to work hard to rebuild trust. What if a person has to do legitimate work on the computer? It’s one of those open communication issues. Honesty, and certainly breaking off the affair are the first steps. Chatting online with your spouse might be appropriate — usually this is after a face-to-face confrontation. The act of writing gives the writer a change to think and communicate carefully, and reading the words from a spouse gives the chance to reflect.

New Wineskins: What ethical pitfalls exist for internet use in the workplace?

Dr. Young: From a managerial perspective, internet use policies— acceptable and unacceptable use—have to be clearly defined. I do seminars that address early warning signs, how to address this issue, compliance, and company monitoring. For individual employees: if you suspect that you have a problem, certainly like any other addiction—you need to get help. Many insurance companies do see these cases. If an employee says “I have a problem and it’s about the computer” they can get (clinical) help, three to six sessions. Companies only cover so much; but rehab is more cost-effective than terminating an employee (in most cases).

New Wineskins: Is internet use a clinical addiction?

Dr. Young: In 1994, when I called online misuse an addiction, I was laughed at. Today there are treatment centers across the country. We talk about online addiction in much the same way we talk about drug or alcohol abuse. Internet abuse really does meet the clinical criteria that is used to diagnose addictions. I’ve testified in courts, and they have accepted this definition, in divorce courts: maybe the husband is trying to get custody and the children are showing signs of neglect.

New Wineskins: The Bethesda Workshops say, “Pornography is the addiction of choice among Christians.” What is your reaction to this statement?

Dr. Young: Strict upbringing in a religious fashion can make people guilt-ridden and when they do it (online expression of sexual fantasies) they can’t bottle it back up. It’s there, free, accessible; this is a spiritual struggle and that’s why the 12-step program is very helpful because it deals with this part. A lot of Christians struggle with these issues. I try to integrate spiritual things in treatment.New Wineskins

Dr. Kimberly Young

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This author published 1598 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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