If you or any of your friends have ever played Farmville or perhaps Bejeweled, two computer games that moms tend to enjoy, you can begin to understand your teenager’s addiction to games, or perhaps to social networking on the computer. The Internet is a necessary and wonderful tool for education, research, work and communication. But how do you know if your teenager is spending too much time on the Internet or whether he is addicted?
South Korea and China consider Internet addiction a serious health problem for children, according to “Wired” magazine. Chinese doctors even classify Internet addiction as a disease. People suspect that when children and teens spend a disproportionate amount of time on the Internet, they are addicted, especially if the users experience cravings, as in wanting better computers and software, and withdrawal symptoms, irritability when having to log off. Internet addicts usually don’t realize how much time they spend on the computer, and they may begin to lose social skills. When using the computer interferes with your teen’s daily life in a negative way, she might be addicted.
Kids who are into gaming can be as hooked as any Las Vegas gambler. They may be having a good time, but their grades and social interactions may be suffering. These kids, usually boys, may be bored with any other activity besides their game of choice. If your teen exhibits particular symptoms, he has an addiction, according to results of a 2009 study by Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University and published in “Psychological Science.” Symptoms are: the activity dominates your child’s life, the activity provides a “high,” your child spends increasing amounts of time and money on the game, tolerance, lying about length of time spent playing, withdrawal, conflict, relapse and your teen trying to abstain but not being able to.
According to the MedGuru, Joanne Davila, psychology professor from Stony Brook University, led a 2009 study and declared that too much social networking among girls makes them more anxious and depressed. Girls who discuss their problems with their friends through texting, e-mailing or social networking might be getting too wrapped up in the drama, more so than the normal angst young teenage girls already experience.
What You Can Do
If you think that your child is using the computer too much, encourage him to pursue other interests or activities, such as joining a sports team, an after-school club or the Scouts. Make a rule that he can’t use the computer in his room. With the computer in plain sight, monitor what your teen is doing and limit his time to one or two hours a day. Sometimes when a child uses the computer too much, it’s because he is having difficulties at school, perhaps with fitting in with friends there. Find out whether an underlying problem exists that is causing your teen to retreat to the computer.
Balance is the Goal
Try being attentive and taking an interest in what your child is doing on the Internet, suggests Henry Jenkins, communications professor at the University of Southern California, on PBS. You might not be interested in the activity, but you should discuss it with your teen anyway, much as you would go to see her perform in a band concert or school play. Kids need to be adept on the computer. Not everything they do on it is bad or harmful, especially if the Internet activity is in balance with the rest of your teen’s life.