During the past year of social isolation and school closings, parents may have noticed that their teens and young children spend more and more time on the internet via their phones or laptops. You may also have seen significant change in their behavior, causing you to wonder, ‘how much time should they spend online, and off-line?
Many current studies on internet use around the world indicate that after spending time doing academic studies or homework online, a child or teen should not take more than 2 hours on social media, gaming, texting, etc. And as an adolescent’s screen time grows and grows, parents must take action to help their son or daughter focus on other healthy activities, and avoid ‘internet addiction disorder’ or IAD.
Risks of Internet Addiction
Internet addiction is a behavioral addiction in which a person becomes dependent on use of the Internet, or other online devices, as a maladaptive way of coping with life’s stresses. 1
“Loneliness is a risk factor associated with adolescents being drawn into compulsive internet use. The risk of compulsive use has grown in the coronavirus pandemic: loneliness has become increasingly prevalent among adolescents, who spend longer and longer periods of time online.” 2
Unfortunately, spending more and more time online, separated from interaction with their surrounding environment and family, adolescents can experience negative impact on their mental health.
“Obsessive use of the internet leads to IAD…negative implications such as sadness, feeling down, having a loss of interest in daily activities, distraction from normal exercises and other physical play as well as social interaction with friends. Adolescents who have high IAD, are more likely to suffer from emotional and mental stress, depression or social anxiety.” 3
“Internet addiction is particularly concerning for kids and teens. Children lack the knowledge and awareness to properly manage their own computer use and have no idea about the potential harms that the Internet can open them up to.” 4
If your adolescent son or daughter spends excessive time on the internet, take a moment to consider the following signs of addictive behavior: 4
- Loses track of time while online
- Sacrifices needed hours of sleep to spend time online
- Becomes agitated or angry when online time is interrupted
- Checks email or online messages several times a day
- Becomes irritable if not allowed access to the internet
- Spends time online in place of homework or chores
- Prefers to spend time online rather than with friends or family
- 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
- Becomes irritable, moody or depressed when not online
What Parents Can Do to Intervene
Internet addiction treatment can begin at home, as parents set reasonable rules and boundaries on their son or daughter’s use of phones and computers.
“Work with your child to establish clear boundaries for limited internet usage. 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.” 4
And it’s important to show your adolescent that you care about him or her, and you’re not trying to punish them. You want to help them feel better, and improve their social and coping skills. Help them understand the importance of ‘face-to-face’ communication, instead of trying to escape unhappy feelings, or avoiding others.
When your adolescent will not cooperate, and continues to pursue unlimited use of phones or computers, please consider finding help through a professional counselor or therapist that works with families. It’s important to address your child’s problem with extensive internet use, before it becomes a harmful addiction that can derail his or her success in the future. You can also explore placing your adolescent in a therapeutic boarding school that actively treats emotional and mental health issues related to internet or online gaming addictions.
New Hope Boys Home near Austin, TX wants to help you and your family find healthy restoration and healing from the negative effects of an adolescent boy’s online activities. Student computers are programmed to restrict all internet access with the exception of Academy related websites. In order to limit distractions and provide an environment conducive to learning, students do not have access to email or social networking sites while attending New Hope Boys Home.
Please give us a call now to discuss how our therapeutic program can help your teen son overcome the problems he’s experienced due to extensive overuse of online screen time. Call (512) 521-3655.
New Hope Boys Home is an affordable, year-round Christian boarding school for boys ages 12-17 who are misbehaving and struggling with self-destructive or dangerous behaviors. We help boys transform into responsible, respectful and peaceful young men. The low-cost boarding school and therapeutic program in Central Texas features licensed counselors, top academics and adventurous therapeutic activities. Boys also benefit from vocational training and mentoring, designed to better transition them into adulthood.
We look forward to helping you find the best treatment option for your troubled son.