Monthly Archives: December 2013

Feeding Internet Addiction: Teens, the Internet, & Smartphones

Children using smartphonesSmartphone & Internet Trends among Teens

A 2012 Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project survey of 802 teenagers 12-17 years old (and 802 parents) revealed

  • 78% of the teens had a cellphone, with 47% of those having smartphones.
  • Smartphone usage rose to 44% among 14-17 year olds, which nearly matched the 45% for the adults.
  • About 74% of the teens accessed the internet at least occasionally via cellphone, tablet, or other mobile device.
  • 93% had a home computer or access to one.
  • 23% mainly used their phones to surf the web versus desktop or laptop computers, as compared to 15% of adults.

Based on these results, Pew estimated 37% of America’s youth ages 12-17 have smartphones, a 23% increase from 2011, and are using them to surf the web generally higher rates than adults.

Teens, Smartphones, & the Internet

Because computers, cell and smart phones are still relatively new additions to our lives, it is tough to gauge any negative consequences of using them. Still, research has already begun to validate the concept of internet addition as a type of behavioral addiction, which has similar effects on the brain as substance addictions. Other studies show internet use can “rewire” the brain affecting how it works and processes information. Because their bodies and brains are still developing, it may not be a bad idea to think twice before giving children and teens their own smartphone.

Also, giving a child his own smartphone means you give him 24-hour access to the internet. It is this constant stream that leads to excessive internet use, which is one aspect of internet addiction.

With this growing trend of kids and adolescents with their own smartphones and computers, is there cause for concern?

Internet Addiction among Today’s Adolescents

Internet addiction is a growing concern for both adults and children. Troubled adolescents or young adults the internet may become a source of comfort or distraction as they build online personas in video or role-playing games or just get lost in the vastness that is the World Wide Web.

Signs an adolescent may have trouble with excessive internet usage include a preoccupation with the internet even when he’s not using it, lying about online activities, withdrawal from family and friends, declining grades, and possibly suffering of physical side effects like headaches and eye strain.

For an adolescent with an internet usage problem, having a smartphone enables the situation to progress, so seeking outside help to intervene may be necessary.

A Wilderness Program for Troubled Teens

Troubled teens with a variety of issues, such as depression, mood issues, ADD, and poor social skills, have benefitted from Pacific Quest’s wilderness program for adolescents. Outdoor therapy is a well-recognized treatment option, and Pacific Quest’s adolescent and young adult wilderness program is run by a full-time staff that includes both medical and clinical doctors.

If your teen has been dealing with internet addiction issues, a wilderness therapy for troubled adolescents may be a means to help him or her overcome her struggles. The Pacific Quest wilderness program centers around organic gardening and horticulture therapy to aid troubled adolescents achieve balance and healing. Troubled adolescents who enter the program gain life skills – from problem solving, planning, and responsibility to how to be part of a community and relationship building. These skills will help teens deal with their internet usage issues once they leave Pacific Quest, and they can go on to lead happy, productive lives.

The Internet Parent Trap: Should kids embrace or avoid the Internet?

There is a culture clash when it comes to modern child rearing that is being created by technology and specifically the use of computers and the Internet. The current generation of children are the most tech savvy in history: 27% use tablets, 43% use smart phones and 52% use laptops! Los Angeles County alone is spending $30 million on classroom iPads.

However, barely half of today’s parents can agree upon what role technology should play in their children’s lives- especially with the advanced cases of Internet addictions and necessity for “digital detox” for so many young people.

I recently read an article about a set of parents who were deciding on their unborn child’s future name to be – based on what Web domain was available! Seriously. Turns out, “Kylecrandal.com” was taken, so they went with the name Cole instead.

This child, by the age of 3 had learned actionable technology skills- like how to create a password, log on to a laptop and navigate websites. Which is frightening to those parents who are wary of computers and the Internet. It sort of makes sense when you later read that this little boy’s father is a software engineer.

On the flip-side of this same coin, was the story of a single mother who banned texting, social networking and wi-fi in her house after catching her sons “sexting” and bullying kids on Instagram! This brought to light and emphasized very clearly, that how something is being used can either be of benefit or a detriment.

There are increasingly more convincing arguments for the pros rather than the cons of early-age tech fluency, the least of which being pretty basic: keeping up with the competition-, which is a survival skill. There are the fast and ever- growing sectors such as programming, engineering and biotechnology that require exposure early on in life.

So okay, there are cases of cyber bullying, sexual predators and social media (seeing others so happy on Facebook/Instagram) making kids feel depressed, insecure, and even scared. For some children and their families, Facebook and social networking sites have offered unprecedented learning opportunities- helping kids to engage with specialized communities of common interest. Cultivating interests in our children is very important and there are communities online that support niche passions like surfing, music,

photography etc… If you’re the worrying type of parent- and perhaps you have reasonable cause, you can always download “iDetective” an activity monitoring app.

Remember, ‘engaged’ children are happy children. When they are actually physically doing something themselves- in the virtual worlds or on iPads or even laptops- their retention rates skyrocket to 90%.

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Studies are also showing that kids’ using the internet to play games is actually of help. Games like “Minecraft” help kids to create whole worlds from scratch, honing their problem solving and critical thinking skills. “ Samorost” is a solving puzzles game that helps children test better on logic exams. And playing the empire building “ Civilization” game piques students interest in history actually increases grades in history class… if you’re still not convinced that game playing is a good thing or if it is beginning to be a problem, you can download the “ Stay Focused” plug-in on Google Chrome, which will allow you to set site time limits.

It’s important to note that if you find that your child has developed an issue or addiction with the internet or computer gaming that wilderness therapy is an extremely successful option for assistance. Pacific Quest takes great care in helping you understand the potentially harmful habits that teens and young adults can develop as a result of modern technology and digital entertainment.  Pacific Quest also provides a parent’s guide to video game overuse, which is intended to help you:

  • Distinguish between actual video game addiction and simple overuse
  • Devise steps and action-plans to prevent video game addiction, overuse, and abuse at home
  • Understand some of the advanced treatment options available for teens and young adults addicted to video games
  • Take the next step in supporting your son or daughter

As with everything else, our children can learn more by engaging with us in the use of technology than by doing it independently. Being involved and aware of what our children are watching and what games they are playing will foster an even closer bond, on a whole new level. Perhaps parents can keep an open mind about the benefits of technological fluency? Perhaps they can even work WITH their children to make it even more useful.

With any childhood privilege, monitoring is key and essential. I am not condoning unmonitored access to the gadget of every child’s choice- especially if, as noted earlier, they have already been abusing it. If you would like to find out more about internet addictions please contact us.

Is the Internet Changing the Way We Think?

Email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email, again. Sports pages, Blogs, Online Magazines, Video Games.

The internet – whether on a computer or smartphone – is one big distraction. But, are all these distractions negatively affecting us?

Any marketing student or director can tell you that internet users have short attention spans. Then there’s Twitter, which allows only 140 characters before forcing people to the next tweet, and articles with hyperlinks to other stories, related topics, or photos that can direct people away from the original source. Some researchers and psychologists are beginning to worry about the cumulative effect of this attraction-then-distraction nature of the internet. Is it making us “dumber”?

internet addiction wilderness therapy

Where people once regularly read books and entire articles in newspapers, now no depth of thinking is required as people skim through headlines and mini-stories. Students are adept at using technology like the internet to gather information for a paper; however, citing numerous sources doesn’t necessarily mean they acquired a depth of understanding of the topic. The internet has led to a culture of skimming: we look at emails or articles for the bits that seem important with no time to deal with the rest. Is this a bad thing? Well, it could be.

Internet – Rewiring How Our Brains Work

Not only do brains continue to develop into our 20s, they have a use-it-or-lose-it aspect that continues throughout our lives. Using the net, with its infinite temptations, activates different parts of the brain than do deep thought and following one area of study. So, as habits change, so do people’s brains. This switch to more shallow thinking may mean people are losing the ability to stick with a single task. Also, computer-enabled “multitasking” isn’t exactly true. Science has shown the brain isn’t really all that good at multitasking. Put simply, a person can’t truly think about two things at once. What might this mean for young people? In a 5-year study of 100,000 students that ended in 2005 before social media really took off, researchers found a correlation between some decreasing test scores and the growing number of homes with computers and internet access.

The internet can be an escape – a form of entertainment – as much as it can be a useful tool. With all the growing research and numerous studies and observations about how technology is affecting people’s habits and health, people need to be aware what excessive computer use can cause.

While adults and children alike are susceptible to developing bad habits, today’s youth and future generations will only know a world with computers and the internet. Internet addiction is a modern issue, and as it could be that the internet is best used in moderation, teaching children boundaries early may help them avoid some of the risk associated with internet overuse.

Learning a New Way of Life with Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness therapy for troubled teens struggling with internet addiction gets them out in nature and away from the multiple sources that feed their addiction. The Pacific Quest wilderness program is more than about hiking and adventure. It is about getting back in tune with nature and with the inner self. Organic gardening and horticulture therapy have shown to reduce stress, improve concentration, and increase motivation. Creating planting schedules, prioritizing crop rotations, organizing a nursery, designing garden beds, tracking compost temperatures, and thinking of and experimenting new ways to increase efficiency require students to think analytically and develop problem solving skills. Beyond helping with emotional and mental issues associated with internet addiction, outdoor therapy helps troubled adolescents and young adults grow and gain skills that will serve them throughout their lives.