Mental health professionals are uncertain or balk at using the word “addiction” in a clinical sense to describe teen internet addiction. Some experts believe that approximately 10 percent of internet users may appear or can be considered to be addicted to the internet.
The argument is that “addiction” would cause a certain type of chemical reaction in the brain and that can be hard to determine at this time. AddictionRecov.org states that, “Internet addiction is described as an impulse control disorder, which does not involve use of an intoxicating drug and is very similar to pathological gambling.” The Internet can be a very seductive place for teens to engage in sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and other social networking sites.
A teen can do whatever they want to do when expressing themselves in cyberspace by posting, commenting, sending pictures, blogging, and connecting with people in a virtual world. Unless parents have access to their accounts, are they aware of what their teen is truly doing online?
Parents may experience different emotions and concerns about limiting their teen on the computer since they need to use it for academic reasons. Some parents believe that if their teen has a social problem, then this may be a good way to have some type of social interaction, even if it’s on a virtual level.
If a parent has an at-risk teen in their home then they may feel better about keeping track of their activities when they are using their computer by being on the internet. There are many ways a parent can monitor what their teen does online, by blocking sites, using password protection and limiting time allowed on the computer. If you do not know how to block sites, etc, contact a professional to help you set up these boundaries.
There are some parents who do not want to argue or confront their teens and want to avoid confrontations, tantrums, cold shoulders, or rude attitudes that occur when parents try to limit the use of a computer or the internet. These parents sometimes choose not to set up consequences or guidelines for their teen’s social access, whether it is through iPads, smartphones, or tablets.
One way to check if your teen is addicted to the internet, is to have your teen take an addiction quiz at netaddiction.com or mediafamily.org. This can be a determining factor if you are concerned about your teen spending too much time using the internet. Remind your teen that you and your family would like to have more family outings, activities, and dialogue during meals, or on the weekends in order to enhance your relationship and spend time away from the computer.
Some of the warning signs of internet addiction in teens are:
- A teen may begin to increase their amount of time involved on the internet
- Withdrawal from family, friends, or social activities
- Academic grades dropping
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Diminished interest in sports, hobbies, and activities they once enjoyed
- Feeling angry, hostile, moody, depressed, anxious, or distressed when they are not allowed on the internet
- May lie to family, friends, etc about how much time they are actually spending online
- Teens may be unsuccessful in their attempts to control or limit their impulses for being on the internet
- There may also be physical changes in your teen such as appetite loss, eye strain, posture problems from sitting at the computer, difficulty sleeping and sometimes neglect of personal hygiene to minimize time off of the internet
In certain cases, teens may create avatars or alter egos online through video games, social media, or chat rooms. Some teens create a private or secret life as an escape in the virtual world. This may create a form of excitement and can also be an at risk behavior that could potentially be dangerous.
If you are concerned that your teen may have an addiction to the internet, you may want to seek a professional counselor who specializes in addiction.
Hopefully this article will help you understand how internet addiction may occur in your teen’s life and how to go about getting help if this is an issue in your home.