All addictions have a psychological component that makes the addict unable to control their impulses. They damage the person’s relationships with their friends and family. Also, they negatively affect their school and work obligations. Addiction to the Internet is no different from other addictions in this respect. Internet addiction in children is of particular concern to many parents because children’s brains are still developing. The effects of constant Internet use on a developing brain and mind may be devastating.
It is important that parents understand the signs and effects of Internet addiction. Also, they need to learn what they can do to prevent their child from becoming an addict. Warning signs are relatively easy to spot once parents are aware of them.
Internet addiction is particularly problematic because so many aspects of life are now dependent on the Internet, even children’s lives. Children use the Internet to do schoolwork and connect with their school friends, and many children who are trying to hide their Internet activity will say they are doing one of these activities.
It ‘s hard to measure the numbers of children that exhibit addicted behavior, but estimates range from 2-12%.
Like other addictions, addiction to the Internet begins as a coping mechanism to avoid focusing on problems, such as school or family issues.
Children with Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, depression or other mood disorders are more likely to develop an Internet addiction.
On average, children spend about eight hours a day with some media, including computers, smartphones, music players or other devices. More extreme users spend around 12 hours a day with these devices.
The symptoms of Internet addiction in children may be puzzling to parents at first, since it may seem as though the child has experienced a sudden change in their mood, attitude and overall demeanor. However, watching the child’s Internet use and how they react when they cannot use the Internet can make the child’s situation much clearer.
Falling grades: Many issues such as depression, drug use, and Internet addiction first show up when they have an effect on the child’s grades.
Losing sleep: A child’s Internet addiction often gets in the way of normal sleep patterns because the child will use the Internet to the early hours of the morning before finally becoming so exhausted he or she cannot avoid falling asleep.
Lack of focus: Frequent computer use causes changes in the brain and impacts the brain’s ability to focus. This lack of focus is partially due to fast Internet connections. The fast connections cause the brain to need constant stimulation. It also negatively affects its ability to perform many tasks that require concentration.
Withdrawal from friends and family: Activities that used to be exciting and fulfilling to your child start to lose their appeal when the child is addicted to the Internet.
Moodiness or depression when not online: Children who have an Internet addiction may be snappish, irritable and depressed when they cannot get online.
Lying about Internet use: If your child becomes defensive when you ask about their online activities, or if they lie about how much they use the Internet or what they do online.
Although an Internet addiction treatment program may be needed for children who have a serious problem, you may be able to help your child if they only exhibit a few addiction symptoms.
Talk to your child: Many children with Internet addictions use their time online to avoid thinking about problems they have at school or home.
Keep computers in common living spaces: Children who have computers in their rooms can hide their excessive Internet use more easily. By keeping the computer in the living room or family room, you can monitor the time your child spends online.
Keep them from feeling bored: Boredom will make it even harder for you to help your child curtail their addiction. It’s important to get out of the house with your child and spend time with them or encourage them to find activities outside the home.
Limit your child’s use of the Internet: It may be best to taper off their Internet use rather than cut it out altogether. If they need to use the Internet for schoolwork, install a filter that will only allow them to visit certain sites.
Although it can be difficult to help your child break his or her Internet addiction, it is not impossible. Supporting your child and being prepared for the difficulties while remaining consistent is the key to helping children regain their lives and get their addictions under control.