It is without a doubt that the Internet has become a part of people’s everyday lives – especially for youth. The Internet can be accessed using desktops, laptops and smart devices, amongst others. However, when tablets and smartphones came into existence, the use of this technology became even more tremendous than it already was. With this in mind, abuse comes into the picture. It is being referred to as Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD). This disorder can be a huge struggle – particularly for young people. As a parent, you want to make sure that you are there for your child during this day and age.
Why You Should Be Worried
The Internet is undeniably useful. Everyone, from students to professionals, uses it to gain information. It has also presented a whole new meaning to convenience. People can do numerous things with it without having to work hard to achieve the purpose. For instance, researching on a particular subject used to mean that a student had to go to the library and reference various books. With the Internet, students only have to search for the topic using a keyword or key phrase and all the answers are right there.
However, the benefits come with a price. This is specifically the case with young people as they are easily hooked on Internet usage. Networking sites, although they are fun and help children become more social, worsens Internet dependency. Parents should definitely be concerned and be able to learn more about Internet addiction facts. Psychiatrists believe that such a compulsion is comparable to tobacco, drugs, and alcohol dependence. Further Internet addiction research is being conducted in Asian countries such as South Korea and China. The two above mentioned countries conducted their studies because there were Internet-related deaths.
Internet addiction is not only regarded as a psychiatric disorder, but is known to cause other problems. These include depression, anxiety, impulsivity, shyness, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), low self-esteem, and even suicidal thoughts. All of these conditions are certainly worrisome – particularly if you do not help your child address them immediately.
Internet Use Addiction Defined
In general, this disorder describes the excessive use of computers and the Internet, which results in a person not being able to do his or her daily tasks. Computer and Internet activity includes, but are not limited to:
- Playing online and offline games
- Watching videos or movies
- Internet shopping
- Social networking
- Use of email
- Internet pornography
It is important to understand that Internet use can either be healthy or unhealthy. As a parent, you should know how much is too much in order to protect your child from becoming too dependent on their computers or devices. Of course, one person’s use of the Internet varies from another person. For instance, some professionals use the Internet more than an average person because this is required of their work. The key is to determine whether your child’s relationship with you as well as with other people is affected because of Internet usage. If it absorbs your child’s time and he or she keeps repeating the same behavior with the Internet despite the obvious negative consequences, it is time for you to step in.
Internet Addiction Disorder Symptoms
If you suspect that your child is addicted to the Internet, you can look for the following signs:
- Lose track of time whenever he or she is in front of the computer
- Get cranky when you interrupt their online session (e.g. mealtime, study time, and the like)
- Does not complete tasks or work just keeps piling up
- Isolation from other people
- Defensive over excessive Internet use
- Hide his or her Internet use from you
- Feelings of happiness whenever he or she is doing an online activity
Truly, the signs and symptoms of being an Internet addict differ from one person to another. This is because there is no set amount of time of internet usage that indicate to parents their children are Internet addicts. However, the warning signs mentioned above should give you an idea as to whether or not your child is one of them.
Why You Should Act Now When it comes to Internet Addiction Disorder
Becoming an Internet addict has a number of negative consequences – particularly on the emotional side. Most children and the teenagers have a problem with low self-esteem. Others eventually lack social skills because they would rather talk to people in the virtual world than the ones that they can interact with offline. Aside from the emotional impact, addiction to the Internet can also have physical consequences. These include:
- Pain and lack of sensation or numbness in the wrists and hands, a condition known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Strained vision and/or dry eyes
- Headaches, migraine, backaches, and neck pain
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight loss or weight gain
Both the physical and emotional effects bring negativity into a person’s life.
Internet Addiction Disorder Treatment
Internet addiction is quite common in children and especially teenagers, but this does not mean that you should just let your child be. You have a huge role to fulfill. This role is to guide your child towards understanding healthy Internet use. The good news is there are many ways on how you can help your son or daughter combat the net compulsions.
STEP 1: Make him or her realize that the Internet is helpful, but it can also ruin someone’s life. Everything has to start within your child’s self. By understanding that he or she is exceeding the normal use of computers and the Internet, it will be much easier for you to perform your job.
STEP 2: Have a long talk with your child. This is where you will learn why they spend an awful lot of time online. This is actually one of the most crucial steps because you will learn whether or not there are underlying problems related to your child’s behavior. In this stage, you will learn:
- If your child is battling stress, anxiety or even depression
- Whether online activities serve as a way for your child to be numb or feel emotionally unattached to the outside world
STEP 3: After a sincere talk and recognizing if your child needs further help, you can assist him or her by building the ability to cope.
There are many young people these days who do not know how to deal with stress or their feelings of anger. Being a youngster is not always easy especially if there is no one to guide them. Thankfully, they have you, their parent, on whom they can rely instead of simply blowing off steam over the online world. Other times, your child may be shy and thus have trouble when it comes to relating and communicating with other people. This is probably why they choose to talk to people whom they cannot have a direct contact with. The best way to remedy this situation is to encourage them to build their skills in dealing with the stresses and strains of life. Helping them understand that it is possible to overcome shyness by being more comfortable and confident about themselves is a good start.
STEP 4: Finally, a proven and effective way to combat addiction is to strengthen relationships with the right people. Reassure your son or daughter that finding and building relationships is valuable. Give them the motivation to join groups where they have common interests such as book reading, sports, or music.
Modifying Internet Use for Patients of Internet Addiction Disorder
You can help your child regulate the amount of time he or she spends online. Some of the possible things that you can do include:
- Keep a log of Internet use for both important and unimportant activities. This is where your child will learn whether there are times when he or she uses the Internet more than required. Perhaps there are situations that trigger them to stay online more than the amount of time they intend to do so.
- Help them set goals. For instance, you can set a timer that will give them a schedule when to use and turn off their computers or mobile devices each day.
- After that, you can reward them with more time online or other types of incentives if they are able to accomplish their tasks. These may include completing their homework or doing some chores at home.
- Encourage them to do other healthy activities. Being inside almost all the time and simply browsing the web for hours are definitely unhealthy. If your child is lonely and bored, you will find it difficult to convince him or her to stop going online. It is actually quite useful if you can help your children find other ways that will enable them to fill their time. Perhaps you can urge them to go outside and play with their friends or even invite their friend over for lunch or dinner.
Regardless of the intensity of your child’s Internet addiction, you should be aware that parents have a huge responsibility in keeping the balance between their normal and online life. Do not be surprised if it is difficult at first because most children will resist their parents as they are taught on how to manage their Internet use. By maintaining a resilient attitude over the matter, your child will eventually understand that there is life outside Facebook or the web browser.