Does your child need a detox from the Internet?
Are your child’s eyes constantly glued to a smartphone, tablet or computer? Does the Internet occupy much of your child’s time – perhaps, most of it— at the expense of other, physical and educational activities?
If you answered ‘yes,’ you certainly aren’t alone. According to a recent study, 6 percent of people worldwide are addicted to the Internet.
Researchers at the University of Hong Kong examined data from two questionnaires, surveying more than 89,000 individuals in 31 countries. Both surveys assessed individuals’ Internet addiction based on a checklist that included responses to loss of control while using the Internet and withdrawal symptoms when restricted from going online.
This relatively new addiction is growing at a rapid rate compared to other well-known addictions. The article, published on the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking website, reports that the incidence of Internet addiction is more than threefold greater than that of gambling addiction.
While the Internet offers many social and intellectual benefits, should parents have a cause for concern if their child is glued to their digital devices? “Not quite,” suggests Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, clinical psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill.
“It really is normal for children, teens and even adults to spend disproportionate amounts of time online. Children socialize online nowadays as much if not more than they do face-to-face,” she says. “This is not inherently a bad thing, but it can become problematic.”
It is still important for children to socialize and engage in activities with friends and family outside the Internet, Dr. Roberts says. Parents may wish to intervene in excessive Internet usage when it appears to dominate the child’s life in a way that interferes with his or her ability to participate in other activities of daily life, such as eating, sleeping, schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Another indication that it might be time to intervene is excessive anger, moodiness or anxiousness when access to the Internet is removed.
Dr. Roberts stresses that moderation and balance is essential for children and adults alike when it comes to many outlets and activities, and the Internet is no exception.
“Like anything else, parents have a responsibility to teach their children to use the Internet responsibly and set limits when needed,” Dr. Roberts says.
If a parent feels that a child is spending too much time on the Internet, Dr. Roberts says it’s okay to differentiate online access for school-related activities from extracurricular time. While difficult, parents are encouraged to monitor their child on the Internet to ensure that the child or teen is engaging in healthy activities.
It is important for children to be well-rounded and socialized on and offline, Dr. Roberts comments. If a parent feels that a child spends an excessive amount of time online, but also engages in other activities and appears healthy and happy, then perhaps there is not a problem.
It is also important for parents to remember that times are different from when they were young, and just because you may never understand how children can spend so much time online, that does not mean it is always abnormal or problematic.
About the Author
Julie Nakis, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. She earned her BA in communications from the University of Iowa – Go Hawkeyes! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, exploring the city and cheering on the Chicago Cubs and Blackhawks.