Is your child being controlled by the Internet?
Picture this scenario
Your 13-year-old is playing a game on her tablet, you call out to her to come and have lunch. She tells you that she will be there in 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, you call her once again. She tells you that she would come right away but is still glued to the tablet screen. Irritated, you go to her and snatch away the tablet. Chaos ensues; she starts yelling and tries to forcefully take the tablet back. It is almost like she has lost all sense of reason.
The cause of this strife – internet addiction! Children as young as 7 years old are known to be addicted to the internet. Though internet addiction has been observed across all ages, adolescents and particularly people in their 20’s are more prone to internet addiction.
According to Psychology Today, addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continuation of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary responsibilities and concerns, such as work, relationships, or health. Internet addiction is the activity (online gaming, gambling, constant browsing,) that leads to compulsive habits that disrupt daily life.
In children, most often the addiction is gaming and online communication with friends. These internet addictions, which are a subset of technology addiction, that causes children to lose interest in day-to-day life activities and also causes strain on their personal relationships. Internet addiction can also cause adverse behavioural changes. One example given on the online portal, Youth Ki Awaaz, spoke of two brothers with internet addiction. Aged 19 and 20, they would not just skip meals to play the online game they were addicted to but also pee their pants to avoid leaving the game.
Internet addiction could be caused by various problems, like stress, shyness, the need for emotional support, depression, anxiety etc. The symptoms that children usually exhibit when they are addicted are as follows:
- Spending more time online than with family and friends
- Neglecting food and sleep in order to be online all the time
- Using internet as a way to alter their mood
- Becoming irritated or angry when internet time is interrupted
- Thinking of getting back online as soon as possible
And not just psychological symptoms, internet addiction tend to have severe physiological repercussions like:
- Frequent headaches
- Problems in vision
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Sleep deprivation which leads to memory problems and fatigue
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
So, how do we stop children from getting addicted to the internet?
Taking away the medium itself is not a viable option. Online access is a vital part of life at present. The Internet is also a very engaging and entertaining educational tool. With the amount of knowledge, they have to keep up with, being cut off from the internet will not help the present generation.
It has been observed that children who are isolated, have poor social and coping skills tend to fall prey to internet addiction. Like drugs and alcohol, the internet presents an escape from difficulties in the real world. Be it coping with the academic expectations or problems at home, the internet becomes a haven for children who want to run away from it all.
Help them understand
Children will not believe that they are in any kind of danger or that they are under the influence of the internet. They will first and foremost put up the excuse that everyone around them is online. As parents, you have to help them understand the difference between internet addiction and safe browsing. Show them examples of people with adverse internet addiction and how it changed their lives for the worse.
Making them understand that they are in trouble is the first step to helping them fight the problem.
Show them you care
Children, especially those addicted, have lower self-esteem and believe if they ask for help they will be rejected. It is essential to help them understand that you will be there every step of the way to help them come back to life a healthy and happier kid.
Consult an expert
If the addiction has gotten severe, it is better to take the opinion and guidance of experts. Keep a look out for the symptoms in your children and always ensure to set rules and limits to the amount of technology and internet your children are exposed to. Take a personal interest in the day-to-day activities of the children and always take time to do at least one activity together every day. (Exclusive of mealtimes)
Let us strive towards safer internet for all, especially our children.