How You Can Help Prevent Internet Addiction
Technology and the internet are all around us. For most people, smartphones, tablets and computers are an integral part of life be it for work, pleasure, or both and it’s understandable that children will pick up on that and want to be involved.
Many young children have access to tablets, smartphones or computers and enjoy using them to discover and learn new things. But, when does this access to technology become dangerous for children, and at what point does it turn into something potentially damaging like internet addiction?
Internet addiction is a serious issue for many children and can negatively impact a child’s psychological, social and physical health and well-being. Luckily, parents and guardians can help to prevent internet addiction by simply monitoring how much time children spend online and taking action accordingly.
What is Internet Addiction?
Internet addiction has been closely-linked to gambling addictions in the sense that it majorly impacts every-day life. If your child is spending more time online than with friends or family, prefers online relationships, prioritises internet use over things like schoolwork and other activities, is moody or throws tantrums if they’re told to stop using the internet, is anti-social and sullen when away from the computer, or is continually checking emails and social media, it’s time to step in.
How do I know if my child is at risk?
Any child can develop internet addiction. However, some children have been identified as more at risk than others, particularly children who have been diagnosed with behavioural issues, ADHD, depression and social phobias. Children who are lonely and shy can also become addicted to the internet as it can feel like a safe place where they can be themselves.
How do I stop my child from becoming addicted to the internet?
Overusing the computer is like over-eating. It’s a compulsion that doesn’t initially seem to cause problems but overtime can be detrimental to a child’s health and wellbeing.
It can be difficult for a child to understand that using the internet can be bad, since most children will use some form of the internet for schoolwork and homework. However, it’s up to parents and guardians to try to find a way of removing the ‘bad’ aspects of the internet.
- You can begin by setting limits on internet use. Establish house-rules that determine how long your child can use the internet for, and how often, and for how long, they need to take a break.
- Offer fun, exciting alternatives to using the internet or playing video games such as arts & crafts, reading, walks, bicycle rides and other fun, engaging activities.
- Help your child to stay in touch with and make new friends away from the internet. Presenting the idea of joining a group or club that matches their interests is a good place to start.
- Spend quality time with your child doing fun activities away from the computer. Use this time to discover their hidden passions and talents and encourage them to pursue these.
- Set an example by not using your own devices as much. Begin by setting a rule to have no internet/devices after a certain time or during meal times.
- Consider volunteering. Showing your child that there are more important things than the internet can help to break their addiction, whilst giving them a purpose; something they can be proud of.
- Exercising regularly is a great way to break away from technology, get out of the house and enjoy nature. Whether it’s a walk, run or bicycle ride, the fresh air and time spent away from the internet will work wonders for your child’s well-being.
- Monitor your child’s internet activity. What sites are they visiting? How long are they spending on each one? Do any pose dangers and threats to your child? Identify the risks and take action. Communicate with your child and explain why certain websites can be dangerous.
Spending additional time with your child to help break this addiction will be rewarding for the whole family.