Is Your Teenager Addicted To The Internet?

June 10, 2020 by  
Filed under ADDICTION, HEALTHCARE

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When we speak about addiction in young people, our first reaction might be to assume that it is related to alcohol, drugs or other substance abuse. But another form of addiction is sweeping through teens and adolescents worldwide and it can also have shocking mental, physical and emotional effects. It is internet addiction.

Advances in technology have had numerous benefits for society. With the touch of a button we can access information, socialize, play games and watch movies. Smartphones and tablets mean that we can even do all of this on the move. But when does convenience turn into reliance? Studies show that kids aged 8 – 18 spend an average of 44.5 hours a week online and 23% report feeling addicted to video games. Worryingly, many of them use the virtual world as an escape from reality and such is the gravity of this epidemic that several internet addiction rehabilitation centers have been set up worldwide over the past 10 years.

But how can you tell when a hobby turns into an addiction and what can you do to help your teen overcome their addiction to their laptop, smartphone, tablet or games console? Here are some of the giveaway signs that their internet usage is becoming compulsive.

Excessive or secret time spent online

It’s not uncommon for adults and children alike to lose track of the time when they are busy doing something online. But if your teenager appears to be spending an excessive amount of time glued to their technology then it could be the first sign of a wider issue. When someone develops an addiction they tend to gradually need more and more of their so called ‘substance’ (in this case their time online) in order to achieve the same high. They may try to downplay their usage or even use secretly when others members of their family aren’t around – both clear signs of a developing dependency. For this reason it is important to set reasonable boundaries for their usage and enforce them correctly. This may mean becoming computer savvy yourself if you’re not already. There are several programs that you can use in order to set limits on their usage. When they reach this limit then access to the internet or the device itself will be automatically withdrawn.

Disengagement from real life

Many people argue that the internet has created a new platform for socializing and in some ways this is true. But while we are spending all of our time chatting and sharing online, we are failing to engage in a more traditional sense. If you notice that your teenager is no longer attending out-of-school activities or passing up opportunities to socialize with real life friends in favour of chatting to their online alternatives then it is a clear sign that their usage is becoming unhealthy. Just because we have the facility to chat, shop and entertain ourselves online it doesn’t mean we should withdraw from the real world completely. In fact, this disengagement from reality can have a severe emotional impact on young people. They lose the confidence and ability to socialize face-to-face and one principal goes as far as to suggest that this can ’emotionally stunt them’ thus making it more difficult for them to form meaningful relationships and get a job in the future.

Low mood and irritability

Research shows that increased time spent online (particularly on social networking sites) can make you miserable. One study even states that those who use Facebook regularly are 39% more likely to be unhappy than non-users. Comparing ourselves to others on social media can lead to anxieties and low self esteem so if you notice that your teenager seems blue after a stint online then this could be the reason why. Addiction is generally linked to low mood in that it creates guilt which leads to sadness. Or you might find that your teenager appears angry or irritable, particularly when challenged about their internet usage. In severe cases teenagers have reportedly been violent towards parents who have tried to set boundaries about their internet usage. If you find yourself in this position then it has already gone too far and it’s important to seek help for both your own self care and your teen’s future wellbeing.

Health and lifestyle problems

The nature of addiction is that it is a compulsive desire within the brain that tells the sufferer that it must get its fix at the expense of all else. In this way you may start to see other areas of your teenagers life and health deteriorate. Perhaps their grades will slip or their relationships will suffer. Maybe their physical appearance and personal hygiene will become neglected. They may not have time to eat because they’re so focused on being online or perhaps they’ll develop tell-tale symptoms of too much time at a computer such as carpel tunnel syndrome, poor posture, headaches or an eye squint. This is not to mention the mental impact which, although less visible, is just as concerning.  

Resources

Webroot, Internet Addiction: What can parents do?, accessed 02.03.16

The Guardian, Clinic for internet addicts opens in US, accessed 02.03.16

Video-game-addiction, Symptoms of video game addiction in teens, accessed 02.03.16

US News, Facebook makes people unhappy, study says, accessed 02.03.16

National Post, ‘My son was addicted to the internet,‘ accessed 02.03.16

Recovery.orgWhy self care is essential for parents of addicts, accessed 02.03.16

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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