While researching for our e-book, Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide, we learned a lot about parenting in our high-tech world. Our Modern Parenting online series has already covered subjects such as X and X, and now we’ll lead into the dangers of online addiction, and how you can keep your kids safe.
Statistics compiled by Anne Collier of ConnectSafely.org show that 95% of 12-17 year olds are now online. But for some kids, there is a real danger of becoming too involved in online activities, or even living too much of their lives in the virtual world instead of real one. Whether it’s constantly texting, staying glued to computer games for hours on end, or wasting entire days on social networks, it’s easy to understand why developing children could easily become too wrapped up in online activities.
In rare cases, true symptoms of addiction can also develop, such as neglecting family, friends and even sleep in order to spend more time online. Kids who fall into this trap may even require direct help from their parents, peers, and qualified professionals to regain control of a healthy, balanced life. While a change of environment and routine can sometimes be enough to break kids out of an addictive mindset, the reality is that it’s hard to prohibit kids from using technology on a regular basis, since it’s such an integral part of daily life. As such, parents must take care and caution to promote responsible computing habits and online behaviors, and monitor children’s usage of high-tech devices and services, as well as surrounding behaviors.
Worth keeping in mind: Millions of kids and adults use the Internet safely and responsibly every day, meaning there’s no need to get up in arms about the mere fact that children can and do go online. Rather, where concern should be focused is on the how, when, and the manner in which they choose to do so – moderation is key, with high-tech activity just another item to consider when maintaining a healthy digital diet. The Internet and connected devices can be a hugely powerful force for good in children’s lives. Ultimately, maintaining a healthy balance in the home all comes down to the way in which we as individuals choose to use these resources, and the support systems in place to help us understand and address potential dangers.
According to Hilarie Cash, executive director of the ReSTART Center for Internet Addiction near Seattle, the following are signs of potential Internet addiction. If your child exhibits three or more of the below indicators it suggests abuse, she says, and five or more suggests possible addiction:
-Spending increasing amounts of time on the Internet
-Failed attempts to control behavior
-Heightened euphoria while on the Internet
-Craving more time on the Internet, restless when not there
-Neglecting family and friends
-Lying to others about online usage
-The Internet begins to interfere with on the job and school performance
-Feeling guilty or ashamed of behavior
-Changes in sleep patterns
-Weight changes, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel
-Withdrawal from other activities
If you think that your child is engaging in addictive behavior, you need research more about what they are doing, and document instances of questionable activity or interactions. In short, you must work to understand the cause of the addictive behavior so you can better address and work towards possible resolutions.
Don’t immediately ban the activity in question though, because doing so may not have desired effect, and lead to greater household conflict, say experts. Instead, become more engaged with the problem in order to gain a better understanding of why the behavior is so addictive for your child.
Families should also not be afraid to seek out qualified professional help should children exhibit the warning signs of addiction detailed above. A list of resources is available at sites like www.netaddiction.com. You can also take an online quiz at www.netaddiction.com to see if you or your child may be exhibiting warning signs. Doing so may help better tune you and your kids into the issues and warning signs to watch out for.
For more information about how to navigate technology with your kids, check out the other sections in our Modern Parenting online series, an important look at what families need to know in our hyper-connected era:
Link to All other Sections
And for a comprehensive understanding of the topic, make sure to get the e-book, Parenting High-Tech Kids: The Ultimate Internet, Web, and Online Safety Guide.