Children & teenagers in the age group of 8 to 18 spend on average 44.5 hours per week ( about 6.3 hours or more per day )in front of screens, whether it is for the purpose of academics or entertainment. Does this worry you?
Parents feel that compulsive use of the internet robs a child of real-world experiences. Nearly 23% of youth report that they feel “addicted to video games” (31% of males, 13% of females.) These are the results of a study of 1,178 U.S. children and teens (ages 8 to 18) conducted by Harris Interactive (2007) that documents a national prevalence rate of pathological video game use. In India, the usage is slightly less from 1.3% to 19.9 % , more in males than females
Apart from gaming, children & teenagers are involved in social networking, instant messaging (IM), blogging, downloading, etc.
The following are the potential warning signs for children with pathological Internet use:
- Loses track of time while online
- Lack of sleep due to spend time online
- Daytime sleepiness
- Lack of concentration or focus
- Poor academic performance
- Loss of appetite and poor health
- Lack of real time friends , has more friends in virtual world
- Lack of bonding with family members
- Lack of empathy , care and giving
- Emulation of online figures or avatars
- Becomes agitated or angry when online time is interrupted
- Checks email or online messages several times a day
- Spends time online in place of homework or chores
- Disobeys time limits that have been set for internet usage
- Lies about amount of time spent online or “sneaks” online when no one is around
- Forms new relationships with people he or she has met online
- Seems preoccupied with getting back online when away from the computer
- Loses interest in activities that were enjoyable before he or she had online access
Internet addiction among children & teens is a growing concern. Online access is essential as it forms the most vital part of education in the modern world. In addition, the highly entertaining and informative medium always attracts the individual to get into it. The lure of seeing the world sitting at home, the lure of making friends anywhere in the world, and the lure of constantly living on the high can always be satisfied through the internet. However, these very qualities also make it an enticing escape for many children. They can be anyone in an online chat room, or play thrilling and challenging games against other players from all corners of the globe. With the click of a mouse, they can enter a different world where the problems they perceive in their real lives are no longer present, and all the things one wishes he or she could be, do, or experience are possible.
The internet offers children and adolescents a way to escape their painful feelings or troubling situations like drugs and alcohol addiction. They sacrifice needed hours of sleep to spend time online and withdraw from family and friends to escape into a comfortable online world that they have created and shaped.
Fear of loneliness, lack of companionship or lack of nurturing relationships or who those with poor social and coping skills are at greater risk of developing inappropriate or excessive online habits. Because they feel alone, alienated, and may have problems making new friends, they turn to invisible strangers in online chat rooms looking for the attention and companionship missing from their real lives. These children & teenagers may be from families with significant problems at home, or experience bullying or difficulty socializing in school and extracurricular activities, so they cope with their problems by spending time online.
Socially, they learn to instant message friends rather than develop face-to-face relationships, which can impact their way of relating to peers. They can communicate with each other through social platforms mostly through emojis and other forms of internet language. Their ability to do teamwork is affected. Many become socially aggressive,
To address this situation, following factors must be kept in mind
- Parents must present a united front
- They must take the issue seriously and agree on common terms . Their personal differences must be kept side for the better good of the child
- It is necessary to ve empathetic and caring and try to understand your child
- Spend real time with child instead of screen time
- Get into activities which will stimulate the mind and emotions on a one to one basis , face to face , rather than through screen . This will cut down the feeling of loneliness experienced by the child or the teenager making them turn to the internet
- It is but natural that the child ir teenager will get irritated , moody , angry and feel threatened by the very thought of curbing screen time . They will become accusatory . It is imperative that at that point of time , you do not feel guilty or inadequate and give in to the cusations .
- It is important not to get involved in the emotional tirade . Be detached
- Donot lecture your child on disrespect at that point of time
- Acknowledge their feelings , accept it and stay focused on the topic of inyrnet use
- Donot ever cut off the use of internet without prior talk with your child
- Tell your child that you love and care for them and their well being , which they may not be understanding at that point of time
- Children and teens often interpret questions about their behavior as blame and criticism. You need to reassure your child that you are not condemning them.
- Tell your child of your concern, about some of the changes you have seen in their behavior and refer to those changes in specific terms: fatigue, declining grades, giving up hobbies, social withdrawal, etc.
- Assign an internet time log—tell your child that you would like to see an account of just how much time they spend online each day and which internet activities they engage in.
- Be firm , don’t give in to excuses.
- Remind them that, with television, you can monitor their viewing habits more easily, but with the internet, you need their help and cooperation to become appropriately involved.
- They can keep the log themselves for a week to build trust between both of you.
- However , if they lie in their log, you are dealing with their denial of addiction.
- Become tech savvy , so that you can check history folders and internet logs, learn about parental monitoring software, and installing filters
- It is important for every parent to learn the terminology (both technical and popular) and be comfortable with the computer, at least enough to know what your child is doing online.
- Take an active interest in the internet and learn about where your child goes online.
- Set reasonable rules & boundaries
- Donot take the computer away as a form of punishment for your child , if you feek that your child is getting addicted
- Donot force you child to quit abruptly as this will cause problems
- Allow perhaps an hour per night after homework, with a few extra weekend hours.
- Stick to your rules and remember that you’re not trying to control your child or change who they are—you are working to help them free themselves from a psychological dependence.
- Finally, Computers must be kept in commonareas of the house .
- Create a rule that non-homework-related computer usage should only happen in more public areas of the home, where your child is more likely to interact with you or other members of the household.