Internet Addiction- A Growing Concern
Created by Arvika Bhakri Updated on Jan 02, 2020
As a parent we are living in a time and age where our information consumption has been digitalized and is available with a click of a button. I see children in my vicinity spending good number of hours hooked on to various digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers as they surf the internet, play online games, use social media and engage in instant messaging. Gradually they start becoming victims of Smartphone addiction and are unable to get away with this addiction.
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that internet is not necessarily a bad thing because majority of our lives depend on it, it provides us with useful information. Your child may use internet to research for his/her homework, school project or to understand a concept in detail. Internet may become an issue once it starts interfering with your child’s daily life, especially if it affects your child’s social, family and psychological functioning.
In a report by Common Sense Media published on “EdSurge” in Dec, 2017. children spend approximately upto 6 hours a day with some digital media, including computers, smartphones, or other devices. The addiction increases with age owing to the variety and interest of content with growing age. Children with Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, depression or other mood disorders have been reported to be more likely to develop an Internet addiction.
Are you concerned as a parent seeing these statistics? It indeed is alarming and a matter of concern about the amount being spent on these devices and the resistance that comes when told to cut back on the screen time. Additionally, children are also missing out on real world experiences such as engaging in outdoor sport activities, making friends, having verbal communications instead of creating their own virtual world.
Hence it is of utmost importance to regulate your child’s daily internet usage to ensure that they have time for other activities, such as eating healthily, reading, homework, writing, family time, sports, etc. The symptoms of internet addiction in children can be confusing to parents but watching the child’s Internet use and how they react when they cannot use the Internet can make the child’s symptoms clearer.
These 9 signs will tell you if your child is getting addicted to the screen
- Loses track of time while online
- Falling grades in school
- Sacrifices sleep to stay online till early hours of the morning before being exhausted
- Gets agitated or angry when online time is interrupted
- Withdraws from family and friends and prefers to spend time online
- Gets irritated and sad if not allowed access to the Internet and/or gadgets
- Lies about amount of time spent online or sneaks online when no one is around
- When offline, remains preoccupied with getting back online
- Checks social media and messages frequently throughout each day
There are various ways to manage your child’s screen time and tackle this. Before talking about it with your child, take a look at your relation with the internet and gadgets. Some of the things that you can do as a parent are:
- Limit/do not use your mobile phone, laptop, tabs in front of your child because if you’re always on your phone or laptop then your child will consider it to be acceptable.
- Play outdoor sports, board games with your child as it not only encourages physical activity but also helps in parent-child bonding.
- Read to your child, have your child read some story books to you.
- Make sure to eat at least one meal together as a family and have a no-phone/gadget rule on the dining table.
Now that you know what you can do as a parent for yourself, here is what you can further do to prevent internet addiction in your child:
- Children under the age of 12 do not need screen time, hence it is advisable to keep phones, iPads and other gadgets away from them.
- Limit the hours your child spends online. For tweens and teens, it need not be more than an hour or two in a day.
- Keep computers and/or laptops in common spaces such as a family or a living room so that you can keep a tab of the time your child spends online. Children who have electronic gadgets in their rooms tend to hide their excessive Internet use more easily.
- Talk to your child, show them that you care. If you’re concerned about their internet usage then start the discussion by reminding your child that you love him or her and that you care about his or her happiness and well-being. Children often misinterpret questions about their behavior as criticism. You need to reassure your child that you are not condemning him or her. Rather, tell your child you are concerned about some of the changes you have seen in their behavior.
- Set reasonable rules rather than getting angry and punishing your child as it may deteriorate the problem. Instead, establish clear boundaries along with your child for internet usage and then stick to them together.
At first it may seem difficult to break your child’s unhealthy internet habits but it is not impossible. With patience, love, and timely methods you can help moderate their digital habits. Sometimes virtual world works as an escape from the real world, if you feel that they are suddenly spending excessive amount of time on their phone or laptops, talk to them, have a conversation. If the problem is too severe for you to handle alone, then it is advised to seek professional help for your child.
If you would like to ask any specific queries about this, feel free to share in the comment section below. I welcome success stories from you as well, if you have been able to successfully moderate your child’s digital habits. Look forward to your comments and suggestions.
| Jul 29, 2018
Smita Kurup don't worry, I'll guide you through it. You will have to slowly wean off your daughter by offering various substitutes to it. It may not go well at first with her crying but you will have to be patient. Substitute screen time with toys, picture books and make sure you're with her and play along. Do some activites with her at home or outside. Alot depends on when does she get the screen time. Do let me know how this works for you.
| Aug 09, 2018
Thanks for sharing these tips, Arvika. My son would start throwing things and become violent if interrupted while watching videos using smartphone. I had no idea how to handle him. Then I tried a trick. Before handing him over the smartphone, I would take a promise from him - promise that you'd hand it back as and when papa requests - and believe me, it worked wonders. Now there is no struggle in this regard. Once the mobile screen-time is over, I ask for the phone and he gives it back, happily.
| Dec 09, 2019
One of the major reasons my children use the internet is to play games. A particular game became addictive and before I and my husband knew it, they used up considerable data of ours, just because of this game. I eventually started downloading interesting children videos, songs and animations to take their minds off the internet game to the extent that when they pick up my phone, they watch these videos or listen to these songs repeatedly. I also started turning my data off such that when they wanted to play, they would be unable to connect to the internet. Now that addiction is over and it took me a couple of months to achieve this.
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