Internet Addiction and Kids: Is Your Child at Risk?
The phenomenon knows as the Internet has swept in like a wave. Are your kids being caught in the undertow? Being online has become a daily activity for most people, and children are no exception. Today's kids go online for homework and research as well as for social activity and games.
But are your kids spending too much time online? Are they feeling a compulsion to be on the Internet instead of engaging in other activities?
There is such a thing as Internet Addiction Disorder in children, and your kids could have it. Here are some tips on recognizing the problem and what you can do about it.
Is my child addicted?
Ask yourself the following questions about your child's internet use. These are warning signs that your child could have a problem.
- Does your child choose to be online rather than sleep?
- Does your child become angry and defiant when Internet access is denied?
- Does your child neglect homework in order to be online?
- Does your child lie about the amount of time spent online? Does your child lie to you about online activities?
- Has your child pretended to be doing homework online while actually engaging in other online activities?
- Has your child lost interest in previous activities that were not online?
- Does your child neglect family and friends in favor of being online?
- Is your child developing relationships with people online?
- Does your child seem anxious to be online at all times?
- Does your child consistently disobey limits you have set on Internet time?
If you can say yes to these questions, your child could already be addicted to the Internet or could be developing an addition.
The next step is yours. You will need to act to help your child break this addictive cycle before it becomes seriously damaging.
What can I do?
As a parent, there are several steps you can take to help your children cope with an Internet addiction or avoid developing one in the first place.
The first step to overcoming an Internet addiction is addressing the problem. Sit down with your children and talk about your concerns. Bring up the warning signs and the reasons you believe your kids might be at risk.
Your children may become agitated when confronted with the topic. Be patient and willing to discuss their feelings, but remain firm.
Remind your kids that you love them and that you are trying to prevent them from being hurt. Make them part of the solution by asking them for their help in keeping family Internet use under control.
Bring your family's Internet use out of the shadows and into the open. Keep computers in a family area of your home, and insist that laptops be kept outside of the bedrooms.
You also need to monitor your children's online activities on every device from smart phones to tablets to computers. Learn how to check files and view recent history. Let your children know that you expect to have access to online activities, and that more freedom can be earned by consistently following the rules.
Set reasonable limits on your children's Internet use, but do not take online time away altogether. This approach will only make your children angry and resentful. They may also experience true symptoms of withdrawal, such as intense mood swings.
Set rules for the time of day your children can be online. These rules may be something like no Internet after 9 p.m. or in the afternoon only after homework is done. Also set rules for how many hours children are allowed to spend online each day, outside of time spent on homework.
You can combat an Internet addiction in your child and prevent online addictions from occurring in the first place by monitoring your child's online activities and setting reasonable guidelines and rules for its use. If you find that your child continues to exhibit the signs of an addiction even after you have set rules in place, you may need to seek intervention from a professional who understands Internet Addiction Disorder.