It is hard to argue with the fact that computer and the Internet are two incredibly useful tools. They are helping us through everyday tasks, they entertain and teach. But at the same time, no one can argue with the fact that wasting time on the Internet is easy, as well. Plenty of kids tend to spend too much time online. Common Sense Media study showed that children between 8 and 18 years old spend about 8 hours a day online. This time distributes between computers and smartphones. In some cases, we can even talk about Internet addiction – like when a kid is sending their first SMS while still being in their PJs. What can you do as a parent to prevent kids from going to extremes? Here is a parental view on the problem together with solutions to it.
What is internet addiction?
Usually, when we speak about kids being addicted to the Internet, it means spending too much time on specific Internet activities. This can be social media, net compulsions (like gambling or gaming), social networking and even general computer addiction.
Of course, each person uses the Internet differently. Are your kids preparing for entrance exams for college? You might not worry about them spending too much time online then. Long hours might be spent learning. But it is when online hours intervene with other activities, then you should start doing something about it
What can you do with internet addiction?
AAP has recently presented guidelines on media use for parents of young teens. They have a lot of curious statistics and pieces of advice you might try to implement into your family routines. But 2 hours-a-day limit for online activities is pretty funny. Here are several steps you should take if your kid seems to be addicted to the Internet.
- Study the addiction. As mentioned, Internet addiction usually has the ‘name and face’. If your kid spends hours on programming sites or learning how to code, this should not be a problem. Programming will teach a skill your kid can use later in life. And while at the beginning it might be overwhelming for a child, he eventually will work out time limits for himself. But if your kid is addicted to sexting or chatting in anonymous chat rooms, you should be more attentive.
- Talk. For both young and adult addicts the Internet is a way to escape the reality. If there is anything troubling your child, be sure to address the issue before you take away child’s phone or laptop.
- Set a limit. In case your kid recognizes the addiction, you might try to ask them to follow the time limits without your overlooking. But most of the time this task is too hard for a child. So you better set an actual timer to follow.
- Monitor. Parental controls have become popular today, and it is for a good reason. With such apps, you can block an extensive list of websites your kid spends too much time on. They will let you see everything your child does on their phone or tablet. When it comes to fighting the addiction you shouldn't ignore this monitoring option.
- Show example. The silliest situation ever is when smartphone-bound parents, who even sleep with Bluetooth headset in their ear, blame their kids for being Internet addicts. Think about the times when you were checking the news during family dinner or when you gave your kid a smartphone so that you can talk to your friend at a café. Do you want your kid to get off the Internet? Well, start with yourself.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, there is no universal solution to the Internet addiction problem. Every kid is different and different approaches may either work or be useless. But I have shared some of the basic steps to take. You are free to read more articles about addiction and solutions to the problem. But always remember – communication and open dialog with your child is the key. Try building trustful relationships with your kid. It would always work better than setting a totalitarian control over their every step.
Jana Rooheart is a blogger and online safety expert at http://pumpic.com/. She is devoted to making the Internet safer for kids and to warning parents about all the possible hazards of online activities.