Internet addiction among children is a growing concern. Today children ages 8 to18 are spending an average of 44.5 hours per week in front of screens. Due to which parents are increasingly concerned that screen time is robbing them of the real word experiences. Beyond gaming, kids are filling their free time with other internet activities like social networking, instant messaging, and even downloading. When children get addicted to the internet, they lose track of time, sacrifice sleep, become agitated or angry when their online time is interrupted or even when they are not allowed to access the net, they lose interest in other activities that were enjoyable before there was internet access, prefer to be online rather than with family or friends, play more of online games rather than outdoor games affecting the heath of the child. Online access is a vital part of the modern world and an important tool in the education of our children; it is also a highly entertaining and informative medium. But kids have taken it for granted.
With regards to this concern, I have had an experience with a 12 year old boy who is probably facing internet addiction. He is always with his mother’s smartphone or his sister’s laptop, which he uses to download games and play. He loses the track of time when he starts playing on the phone/laptop. Whenever his friends or his family members ask him to join in any activity, he does not show any interest and says that he wants to play games on the phone/laptop. He doesn’t listen to his mother when she asks for the phone/laptop instead he is very demanding at home and wants other people to listen to him. If he doesn’t get the phone/laptop to download games or play, he gets very angry, frustrated, and agitated. Due to which he doesn’t speak to anyone and prefers to stay alone. This behavior has affected his studies and his performance at school. This is just one of the many ways in which Internet addiction can have an effect on a growing mind.
What can parents do to get their kids on the right track? Instead of getting angry and frustrated about the child’s behavior parents can establish clear boundaries for limited internet usage and can allow an hour per night after homework. Parents should stick to their rules and remember that they’re not simply trying to control their children but rather are working to avoid psychological dependence to gadgets in their children. Keeping track of what one’s child is doing online also helps. During the discussion it is important to ensure to the child that parents care about his/her happiness. Discussing with the child about certain changes in his/her behavior like, fatigue, declining grades, giving up hobbies, social withdrawal etc. and therefore assigning an internet time log can help.
Internet addiction can cause enough damage to one’s social, psychological and academic functioning and therefore, merits serious concern and needs to be dealt with on a priority basis.
(Contributed by Jeffia Dias, post – graduate student of psychology during her internship.)