Harmful effects of internet addiction in children
I don’t have children of my own, but I’ve been around enough of my friends’ kids to know that sticking an iPhone or tablet in front of them is a sure-fire way to “shut them up.” Sometimes parents need a break and this can be a great way to achieve that break. However, could we be psychologically and physically harming our children by shoving technology in their faces? Or in contrast, are we setting them up to be technologically ahead of the curve in school? Is any addiction lack of self control? There may be a middle ground, but the facts are that children are becoming hooked on technology.
It has become acceptable in our culture for adults and children to be glued to cell phones while at the dinner table. At a time when we should be present in the moment and interacting with one another, instead we are off in our virtual worlds. It’s not just smart phones and gadgets – it’s the good old television, too. When not at the dinner table, television keeps our children mesmerized. They’re disengaged from what’s going on in the real world and immersed in their favorite TV show or video game. In addition to the Truman Show Delusion, are we deluded ourselves about how much time our kids spend on the internet or using technology?
Signs of internet addiction for children
Below are some of the traits you may see in children who may be addicted to technology:
- becomes irritable or depressed when not online
- becomes agitated or moody when time online is interrupted
- lack of concentration or withdrawal from activities that were enjoyable before he or she had Internet access
- lies about amount of time spent online or watching television
- neglects homework or household chores to spend more time online
- prefers video games to eating or social interaction
- requires television at night to fall asleep
- shuts down emotionally or becomes violent when gadgets are taken away
How does internet addiction affect children?
Internet addiction poses threats to physical health,too. It’s not just a coincidence that the prevalence of obesity is growing in children as technological advances allow them to be entertained all day long without leaving their rooms, prolonging their inactivity. In addition to sedentariness, children are also more prone to sleep deprivation when allowed to watch television or play on their smart phones while trying to fall asleep at night. Children’s reduced interaction with family members is another effect that is not as obvious. By watching countless hours of television, children’s values are likely to be shaped by the shows and online videos they watch, instead of by their parents. If television shows like The Jersey Shore are any indication of how our youth’s values will be shaped, we’re in trouble.
Adolescents are easily addicted to social media – Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit to name just a few. Social media allows adolescents to make virtual or online friends and these “friends” often become more important than real-life relationships. It can be easier for unhappy teenagers to cope with their feelings when their online relationships feel more comfortable than real-life friends.
Does technology change your brain?
Though this information may seem disturbing, you’ve likely heard it before. However, more and more studies are dedicated to researching Internet addiction and many are showing very alarming findings. According to a Forbes article, “Research has shown that people with Internet addiction have demonstrable changes in their brains – both in the connections between cells and in the brain areas that control attention, executive control, and emotion processing. Most intriguing is the fact that some of these changes are what you see happening in the brains of people addicted to cocaine, heroin, special K, and other substances.” Some countries have even dedicated facilities to the treatment of Internet addiction.
As adults, we’re not innocent either. That I check my email first thing in the morning (before I even get out of bed,) and check my Facebook newsfeed too many times to count during the day, is not something I like to admit. But, I still do it – everyday. It doesn’t help that my job requires me to be online from 9-5 and active on social media channels. For instance, in the time I spent researching and writing this article, I simultaneously checked emails, responded to instant messages, and updated my Facebook status, all while listening to Celine Dion in my headphones (occasionally singing the lyrics in my head). Some call it multi-tasking…it’s just what I’m used to at this point.
How to treat kids who are addicted to the internet
So, what can you do if you fear your child may be addicted to the Internet? Treat it like food addiction –you can’t give it up completely, but you can learn to manage it for your own good as well as your child’s. Start with a simple two-day no-Internet challenge. Ask every member of your family to put away all electronic devices for just two days and plan other activities that you may not otherwise do. For instance, play a game, go see a movie, read a book, or get outside. Instead of being plugged into your gadgets, become plugged into one another and bond without distractions. Or, look into options in addiction treatment. Get help from a professional outsider.
Each of us must decide for ourselves and our children whether or not we want to live in a technology-addicted world. So at the end of the two days, reflect upon your experience and decide how you want to move forward.
Good luck and to quote The Hunger Games,“May the odds be ever in your favor.”