The dynamically developing digitization makes it difficult to live, work and play today without access to a computer and the Internet. These opportunities are used not only by adults, but also by children and young people who also use the media for learning. Hence, it is sometimes very difficult to determine the limit beyond which one can talk about a child’s addiction to the Internet. When is this happening? And, most importantly, what to do about it?

Children fascinated by the possibility of discovering the world via the Internet are very eager to use technological achievements. They do it for many reasons – as part of learning, for fun, to maintain social contacts. Fascination with electronics is nothing strange or incomprehensible and it happens very often among young people.

 A child who does not want to stand out from his peers, but also one who does not quite fit in with society, willingly spends time surfing the web. The number of hours spent in front of the screen increases at a dizzying pace, until it finally turns out that offline life ceases to make sense and value. How not to let that happen? What to do when your child is addicted to the Internet? More and more parents come to us with these questions, and we try to help.

Resources: Clearfork Academy

How do you know if your child is addicted to the Internet?

Currently, up to 98% of children aged 9 to 16  use the Internet. These statistics have skyrocketed even more as the pandemic progresses and the transition to remote and hybrid learning. It turned out that every day the youngest have to spend in a sitting position, in front of screens, even several hours!

The balance between leisure time, entertainment, physical activity and the use of the Internet for educational and entertainment purposes has been seriously shaken. No wonder parents are confused and don’t know how to recognize their child’s Internet addiction or video game addiction. Meanwhile, careful observation of the behavior of a young person can provide you with many insights. Memorize them in case psychotherapy is needed to solve the problem.

What can indicate a child’s Internet addiction?

  • Huge, unhealthy fascination with the virtual world,
  • many hours spent online, including at night or during family meetings, with friends,
  • giving up hobbies, socializing, skipping school and extracurricular activities in favor of time spent online,
  • lack of control over the amount of time spent online,
  • frustration, bad mood and even aggression caused by being offline,
  • lying to loved ones about how to use the Internet,
  • replacing the real world with the virtual one (online dating, fun, games, talking to people).

It is worth noting that the above symptoms can occur together or singly and have varying degrees of intensity. The stage of addiction, which is the most serious, is defined as dominance – the Internet absorbs the user to such an extent that nothing else matters. Weaker, but requiring high vigilance of the environment, are addictions resulting from a situation in which a young person uses the Internet to improve his mood, and in the event of being cut off from it, he feels nervous and anxious. Another problem is falling into conflicts with the environment, which forces participation in normal life, thus limiting the possibility of using the Internet. Some may not use it for a while and then lock themselves back into the virtual world. This resembles the so-called “strings” known to be addicted to alcohol.

What to do if your child is addicted to the Internet?

A parent who notices disturbing symptoms in their child starts to wonder what to do if my child is addicted to the Internet? This is an extremely difficult question that cannot be answered unequivocally. Why? Because the first thought is – limit his access to the network, take the computer, turn off the Internet on the phone. However, this may turn out to be more difficult than you think, because it will certainly provoke the instinctive opposition of a child or teenager.

As psychologists, we advise what to do when a child is addicted to the Internet:

Talk – find out what your child is looking for online (and if he finds it), what he can’t get in the real world? Does he feel safer there because he is anonymous? Does he have virtual friends? Which websites do you use most often?

Control – although trust in the child is essential, in a successful relationship you must watch over what content your child has access to. The younger you are, the greater the risk of encountering scandalous, aggressive, vulgar material or making dangerous contacts.

Offer help – if you can’t work it out together, go to a child psychologist.

Resources: Cornerstone of Southern California

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