Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Signs Your Teen is Addicted to the Internet

In today's connected world, it seems like the Internet is creeping further and further into aspects of our lives that have traditionally been “unplugged.” We get much of our news, social interaction, and work via the Internet. The increased connectivity can have some positive effects, such economic growth, the convenience of doing research, and keeping in touch with loved ones. Unfortunately, Internet use can easily become excessive, which has led to increased numbers of people becoming addicted. This issue can be especially troublesome for teens.

Recent studies have shown varying rates of Internet addiction among teens and young adults. An Italian study revealed a low rate of about .8% (1)*. In the UK, Internet addiction rates were found to be much higher, up to 18% (2)*. In China, the issue is even more prevalent. A review of 103 studies revealed 12% of male students and 5% of female students showed signs of Internet addiction (3).* However, one study in Hong Kong found as much as 26.7% of high school students were Internet addicts (4).*

If you worry about your teen's Internet use becoming excessive and leading to addiction, you're not alone; millions of parents have the same concern. Teens have unprecedented access to the Internet via computers and hand-held devices, and it's very easy for them to get hooked. However, if you can recognize the signs, you can help prevent and address Internet addiction before it becomes severe.

The following are some of the signs of Internet addiction, as stated by Dimitri A Christakis of the Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development (Seattle Children's Research Institute, Seattle, Washington, USA).**

  1. Jeopardizing relationships, education, or employment. Excessive Internet use and addiction can result in trouble keeping a job, falling grades, and difficulty maintaining healthy human relationships. 
  2. Preoccupation with being online. 
  3. Repeated failed attempts to reduce Internet use. 
  4. Irritability or mood disturbances when attempting to limit use. 
  5. Losing track of time spent online. An Internet addict may go online intending to spend 30 minutes on research or playing a game, but later realize they have spent far more time than they anticipated. 
  6. Concealing or hiding use. Many addicts will resort to lying about how much time they are spending online, or being secretive about their use. Those who try to hide their Internet use from others are showing one of the classic signs of addiction.
If your teen is starting to exhibit some of the signs of Internet addiction, what is your best course of action? 

As a parent, the best thing you can do is set -- and enforce -- limits on Internet use. If you have set limits but tend to let them slide, try having a non-combative chat with your teen. Explain that you haven't been very good at enforcing the rules, until now. Let them know what the limits are and why you are setting them. If you feel you can't help your teen on your own, consult a school counselor or professional therapist equipped to deal with Internet addiction. There are a host of resources available to help you find assistance in your area.

This guest post was contributed by Liahona Academy. Liahona Academy is known by educational consultants and other behavioral health professionals as a premier residential treatment center for troubled boys.  They help young men who are struggling with defiance, depression, anxiety, school failure, poor peer choice, substance abuse, and many other self-harming behaviors.

 1. Poli R, Agrimi E (2012) Internet addictiondisorder: prevalence in an Italian student population. Nord J Psychiatry 66: 55–59 
2. Niemz K, Griffiths M, Banyard P (2006) Prevalence of pathological Internet use among university students and correlations with self-esteem, the general health questionnaire (GHQ), and disinhibition. CyberPsychol Behav 11: 480–483 
3. Lau CH (2011) Internet addiction among university students in china: Risk factors and health outcomes. (Order No. 3500835, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong)). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 274. Retrieved from (927748136). 
4. Yu L, Shek D (2013) Internet addiction in Hong Kong adolescents: a three-year longitudinal study. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol 26(3 Suppl): S10–S17

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