Is Your Child an Internet Addict?
Look around you—in malls, in restaurants, and even in some schools—and you’ll see kids glued to glowing screens. When little ones are with their parents, you’ll notice that the easiest way to keep them quiet and focused on one thing is to stick a phone or tablet in front of them. Suddenly the tantrums, the meltdowns and any stubborn behaviour disappear.
Since the advent of the Internet, popularity among phones, tablets, and laptops have been growing rapidly. Just 10 years ago, mobile devices and the Internet were considered luxuries for most kids even in urban communities. Now, they’ve become necessities.
We live in a tech-minded society where technology has become so commonplace that we bring them everywhere we go. Apparently, we can’t seem to live without it.
Urban kids today, or digital natives as we call them, have never experienced life without the Internet. It can be easy to say that kids today are obsessed with the digital world, especially when compared to the habits and behaviours of previous generations. But this tech-obsessed world is the only world they know.
Still, how do you differentiate between a child who is consuming Internet healthily, and one who is addicted to the web?
Some signs of Internet addiction in a child
They get unhappy, stressed, moody or angry when not online
They sacrifice sleep or time with loved ones to go online
They withdraw from relationships with family and friends
They form relationships with people online
They’re too preoccupied in the virtual world
They find ways to sneak online, no matter the rules or responsibilities set in place
They’re not present in the moment when they’re not online
They only talk about the virtual world or the things they’ve been doing/watching online
One of the reasons your child is addicted to the Internet could be because they find the virtual more fun, more entertaining or more pleasant than the real world. They may not be getting the attention they crave for, or they may see their online life as an escape from the boredom or unhappiness they experience in their life offline.
The first step then is to talk to your child about it: any problems they may be going through, any issues they may have at school or at home, basically anything that’s on their mind. Instead of blaming or scolding your child, listen to what your child has to say and simply be there for them.
If your child displays one or more of the signs above, it’s never too late to do something about it. Here are some ways you can manage or control your child’s Internet usage:
Set rules and boundaries
Whether it be a time limit or a rewards system, you can allow your child to enjoy the benefits of the Internet while still controlling and monitoring their usage. If it’s a time limit, set a number of hours a day or across a single week. Alternatively, you can also set their online days on certain days. If it's a rewards system, perhaps they can have more online time the more they do house chores or the better their grades are.
The key is to establish a regular routine that your child will get used to. Be firm on the rules you’ve set; there should be no exceptions. Your little one will learn that their time online isn’t whenever, wherever. They will be less likely to bargain with you for more online time and will try to earn it instead.
Stay on top on technology trends and get familiar with tools like parental controls and age-appropriate apps. Set parental controls on your devices so you can manage apps, content and features, or install age-appropriate apps like Youtube for Kids so that the content your child consumes is tailored for their age group.
Do more fun activities together—offline
Unplug and make the real world more fun by doing more activities together that are enjoyable. Take them out to the park for some play time, to the pool for some swimming, or even conduct your own play at home, complete with props and costumes. Bring your little one outdoors and they’ll be able to enjoy their childhood to the fullest just as you did. This way, your child will appreciate life, and will want to explore more, beyond the virtual world.
Internet addiction can be a very real thing, and prevention really is better than cure. But don’t fret if your child may already be addicted to the Internet - you can still change their habits and behaviours, especially when you catch them early.
Of course, it’s never too late to make your child consume Internet in a healthy manner. Ultimately, however, kids tend to follow in the footsteps of grown-ups. The best thing is to set a good example for them (such as not using your phone during meal times or quality time together) and to make sure that your child feels happy, loved and supported in the real world.