Regardless of what Brandon’s parents told him, he continued to stay up until all hours of the night playing video games, watching You Tube videos, and communicating with friends. His mom soon realized that her son was experiencing an online addiction.
The American Psychiatric Association studies have compared the neurological effects of online addictions to those experienced by people addicted to cocaine and heroin. They found that changes in the brain occur leading to increased tolerance levels and the user’s ultimate need for more time online.
But what is the answer? The internet has seemingly become an indispensable tool at both school and work. The reality is – the internet is not going away. Yet we don’t want our children to become overtaken with living more in a virtual world than a real one.
The first thing that we can do as parents, according to internet addiction experts Dr. Cash and Dr. Young, is watch for signs of addiction:
- Craving more time on the internet
- Lying to conceal extent of involvement
- Using the internet to escape feelings of guilt, anxiety, or depression
- Displaying irritability when trying to scale back use
- Neglecting family and friends
- Withdrawing from other activities
- Neglecting sleep to stay online
- Underperforming at school or work
- Showing physical changes in self-care
Three or four of these warning signs indicates abuse and five or more indicate the possibility of addiction. If you see these, possible steps towards improvement may include: moving the computer to a common family area; installing filtering software; limiting time on cell phones and iPads; helping teens establish definitive time way from internet devices; encouraging involvement in other non-internet activities; and if needed, seeking the help of a professional.
Our teen’s minds are fertile and moldable and while they may resist our efforts, it is our love for them that compels us to be parents.