Let's face it, the Internet has become a staple in everyday life for many people whether you're a grandmother keeping in touch with your grandchildren or a post-secondary student that is collaborating with peers and professors. The encompassing use of the Internet has made the line between addiction and healthy use blurred. The type of activity youths engage in online whether it be for homework or social networking (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) isn't the problem. Both their dependency and duration on the Internet is what should be the determining factor when deciding if your child has an addiction.
Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) or Pathological Internet Use (PIU) are terms that refer to over usage of the Internet that interferes with daily life. Below is a list of the psychological and physical symptoms, which will assist you in assessing a youth's Internet habits.
Psychological symptoms include:
- Having a sense of well-being or euphoria while at the computer
- Inability to stop the activity
- Craving more and more time at the computer
- Neglecting family and friends
- Feeling empty, depressed and irritable when not at the computer
- Lying to family and friends about activities
- Showing little interest in participating in other activities
- Problems with school or work
Physical symptoms include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Dry eyes
- Migraine headaches
- Eating irregularities, such as skipping meals
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Sleep disturbances and changes in sleep
If you feel that the youth in question requires further assistance contact a medical professional.
Here's a list of tips to help ensure your child learns to moderate his/her Internet use:
- Don't punish your children by banning them from the Internet. Instead, create a family contract, like this one
, where rules can be established about the amount of time they are allowed to spend online, where they can go online and what kinds of activities are prohibited.
- Keep your computer in a public space in your house, not in your child's bedroom.
- Install software programs that can monitor or restrict Internet use like this one
, but be aware that these programs can be easily disabled by a tech-savvy child.
- Encourage your children to participate in other social activities such as playing sports or joining a club at school.
- If your child is displaying any signs of an Internet addiction, take the time to create an open dialogue or consider seeking professional help to get to the root of the problem.
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