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Internet addiction in children: The new age epidemic

Dr. Shambhavi SamirAlve

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction the world will have a generation of idiots” – Albert Einstein

The Internet is one of the several other technological advancements mankind has experienced in the last few decades. The lucrative nature of the internet has encompassed not only adults but the young blood as well round the globe.  However, the internet has turned out to be a two-way sword. Today, Internet addiction is attracting a lot of attention from mental health practitioners, academicians, researchers, and parents all across the world. Internet addiction can be as damaging as drug addiction. Recently, a Chinese teenager was rushed to the hospital after he cut off his hand in an attempt to cure his internet addiction.

Back Home, several kids spend too much time on the computer, much to the dismay of the parents. Besides the computer, the mushrooming industry of smartphones has added the cherry to the icing. These sources of virtual media offer a safe space for children to experiment with their emerging identities. Hence, it compels these young minds to enter the world of social networking, gaming, internet shopping, pornography, gambling, and much more.

As a primary caretaker it becomes very important for parents to look for initial symptoms of internet addiction.

  1. If the child is spending an irrational amount of time on the internet instead of outdoor sports or other curricular activities, it becomes important for parents to intervene.
  2. When stopped using the internet, if the child becomes irritable or aggressive it justifies the beginning of internet dependency.
  3. The child is happy when accessing social media, on the other hand, being offline makes him/her aloof and sad should also ring an alarm for parents.
  4. Spending less amount of time with parents, siblings, peers in the real world is another sign of developing internet addiction.
  5. Lack of internet access making the child restless and impulsive should also be considered seriously by parents.

These are some of the signs parents should look for among their young ones before it goes out of control. If required parents should seek should professional help from school counselors and developmental psychologists. Moreover, following ways can be adopted by parents to ensure their child does not get addicted to the digital world.

  1. Talk to your children about their internet usage. If they are facing problems that are causing a desire to “escape” from reality, teach them to share their feelings and emotions with real people rather than suppressing them and sharing with unknown people.
  2. Try and avoid keeping the computer in your child’s room. It becomes easy to monitor internet usage this way.
  3. Parents should keep in mind not to buy all the gadgets that children ask for; it would only increase the chances of their addiction.
  4. Keeping a tab on the sites becomes inevitable. If the child is spending time on the internet for gathering valuable information, appreciate it.
  5. Setting up a time limit becomes crucial. Parents should make a conscious effort to list down how many hours the child is online and then, slowly start reducing the hours.  Setting up an alarm can be helpful.
  6. Parents themselves should avoid playing games online while the child is busy with school assignments. Also spending quality time with children helps them build a strong rapport with parents.
  7. Teaching children to develop a hobby and encouraging them to indulge in an outdoor activity will give them a break from school routine.

Every child is different and so which of the above ways parents indulge into becomes subjective. There can be even other ways in which internet addiction can be dealt with.  Sometimes it becomes important to take away the source of internet completely but it must be the last attempt to digitally detox your child.  Addictions are hard to break but not an impossible task. All it requires is vigilance and some patience among parents to secure a healthy life for their child.

Author bio: Writer is a developmental psychologist, clinical hypnotherapist, and arts-based therapy practitioner.

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