The virtual, or online, world is replete with exciting opportunities and experiences.
The rise of social media sites, online shopping, extensive gaming opportunities, as well as easy and on-the-go access to literally every kind of information, are pushing the boundaries on the kind of influence and hold the virtual world has on different sections of populations.
This includes the vulnerable and experience-seeking teenager who is desperately trying to find their own space and identity.
Why is Internet Addiction Dangerous?
The most vulnerable sections of any society are young children and teenagers. And there is no doubt they are spending increasing amounts of time online. But can the time spent online convert into an addiction?
Consider the fact that today’s teenager has grown up on a steady dose of online content which they can easily consume over various screens. Of which, the smartphone is the most popular choice. The big question then is this – does more online screen time lead to Internet addiction?
While Internet addiction is not a cause of concern for every single teenager. The Internet can become a dangerous place for your teen, especially if the usage is largely unsupervised, for several reasons. Consider the following:
- Easy availability of drugs online.
- Easy access to online gaming.
- Easy access to online porn and other adult content.
- Easy access to provocative and polarizing online content (political, religious, violent) which are often created to influence young, unsuspecting minds.
Each of these factors can lead a teenager to pick up habits which are addictive in nature and dangerous to their mental and physical health.
Signs of Internet Addiction in Your Teen
As with any form of addiction, Internet addiction displays itself through a few common signs. Watch out for these signs in your teen:
- Unduly obsessive about the time they spend online each day.
- The number of hours spent online keeps increasing steadily.
- Not missing an opportunity to go online.
- Pushing back bed time to stay online or even staying up all night.
- Pulls back from social engagement; withdraws from engaging with family and friends.
- Falling grades, unable to focus on school work, lack of interest in school and learning.
- Mood/emotional outbursts and signs – irritable, moody, or angry when asked to cut down time spent online.
- Is convinced online connections/friends are real.
- Over dependence on online friends and including them in all decisions.
- Hides or refuses to divulge or share any information about online activities.
- Becomes depressed if not online.
Who is at Risk?
Social, environmental, family, physical, and emotional factors play a vital role in the development process of a teenager. A problem in any of these areas increases the risk of the teen developing problems or picking up an addiction. Internet addiction is no different.
For example, teens who lack a strong social support system, or are battling depression, or anxiety or any other form of mental/emotional disorder fall in the vulnerable category. If the teen is already addicted to say, drugs or alcohol, again the chances of them becoming addicted to the Internet is higher.
Internet Addiction in Teens – What You Can Do About It
A simple “no” will obviously not work when it comes to dealing with teenagers. However, you can take certain steps to reduce the chance of your teen becoming addicted to the Internet by doing the following:
- Fix a time limit for Internet usage when it comes to engaging on social sites and for consumption of other social content.
- Be strict about fixing a time limit on gaming.
- Make it clear that the Internet is essentially for doing school work and research.
- Try and keep Internet access to common areas within the home such as the kitchen/dining area, the study, or the family space for easy monitoring.
- If you notice unusual behavior, speak with your teenager about what could be triggering the behavior.
- If you feel the time spent online is impacting your teen in other ways, address it as soon as possible – if you are unable to find a solution, consult with a professional.
- Lastly, closely monitor all online activity – leaving your child unsupervised online can be dangerous.
Overcoming Internet Addiction is Possible – How Doorways Can Help Your Teen
A potent treatment combination of behavioral, family, group counselling, and psychiatric intervention can help your teen overcome their Internet addiction.
At Doorways, our focus is to first gain a comprehensive understanding of the triggers for the addiction, and then to address any of the mental and physical issues a teen might have developed during the course of the addiction.
Overcoming any form of addiction will only happen if the teenager can achieve an emotional, spiritual, and relational/social balance in their lives. This is our big focus area at Doorways.
If you suspect that your teenager is addicted to the Internet, or if you know of a family or friend with a teenager who is struggling with Internet addiction, please direct them to Doorways. We can also be reached at 602-997-2880.