Even before the internet the first digital addiction in kids was definitely “game mania”. Now we have gaming on the web with sophisticated mobile device, and this movement is slowly waging war on the active life of our kids. According to the Japanese health ministry’s 2013 report based on questionnaires answered by 264 schools, there are over 515,000 students (both of junior and senior high grades) in the country who have ‘Internet dependency’.
Similarly, the 2013 policy statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on “Children, Adolescents, and the Media” has referred to the alarming statistics from the 2010 study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation. These statistics state that an 8 to 10 year old on average spends nearly 8 hours — and older kids or teens spends over 11 hours — a day consuming different media.
AAP has also cited the risks of being a ‘screenoholic’ or ‘Internetoholic’, which includes obesity, aggression, isolation, depression, lack of sleep, and even argumentative behavior with parents and kids. This is why it recommends restricting the time spent on devices and Internet to two hours max per day.
However, today’s kids and teens are such that they will not stop using the Internet every time you you tell them to do so. In fact, they might even act violently. Thus, parents need to come up with some effective alternative means of handling addiction. Keeping this in mind, here are some smart ways of overcoming the Internet addiction of kids and teens.
Educate Your Kids on Sensible Usage
Not everything they see on the Internet is useful. So, sit with them and ask them the following questions:
- What did you do today on the Internet?
- Did you find it useful?
- What did you learn from it?
- Do you agree with what you saw? If yes, why? If no, why?
This is a logical way to help them understand what is necessary and what is not necessary. When you understand their psychology of using the Internet for hours, you can easily find out the best way to reduce addiction for it.
For example, when your kid says that what they watched was not useful, you can then suggest something useful for them to watch, which may be some animated nursery rhymes on YouTube (please block other unwanted channels) or some hobby-related how-to videos.
Use (Useful) Technology against (Useless) Technology
If your kid is stubborn enough to not listen to you at all, you need to get creative and suggest an alternative for their interest. For that, find out what fascinates your kid the most.
For example, if it’s technology, you can ask them to join a class or tutorial to learn actual useful topics therein. If they like animation, you can find a coaching class and ask them to join it. Tell your kid that you admire their interest in animation and think they would really enjoy mastering the topic for themselves.
The logic behind this is that a technology-obsessed teen may simply be looking for a passion. You only need to channel it and put it into some productive work, such as an animation, or even a programming class.
In the case of a younger child, you can sit with them to keep them company but keep the remote control in your hand. For example, when two hours are over you can covertly switch off the computer or block access to phones for a few hours with the help of a monitoring or a parental control app.
Lastly, if their addiction is very developed and tough for you to get under control alone, consider using Skype to setup professional one-to-one counseling to teach them how to use the Internet in the best possible way.
Do Not Just Limit Usage but try to Outright Replace the Technology
Limiting Internet or media usage is just half the battle. “Relapsing” could happen at any moment if the teen is stubborn enough. So, the ultimate goal would be to find creative, interesting outdoor activities to slowly replace the hours they would normally spend whittling away online. For example, you may gift your teen tickets to storytelling events, encourage participation in sports or even arrange a barbecue every night in your lawn.