Monthly Archives: January 2014

Are Virtual Babysitters Creating Internet Addiction?

internet addiction wilderness therapyThe Internet has clearly replaced TV as the stand-by babysitter for parents today. My generation relied on TV shows like “The Brady Bunch” and “Little House On The Prairie”, for example, to teach us right from wrong, and to understand a little bit about life. Not that I’m saying that was the most effective formula for parenting. However, it was relatively “safe”.

Today, even my 5 year old niece is highly proficient with using an iPhone, tablets, computers, video games etc… An inordinate number of teens, adolescents and young adults have reportedly become addicted to the internet. Perhaps it has something to do with the immoderate and exorbitant amount of time kids are spending playing video games, with generalized internet surfing, apps played over smart phones or other hand held devices, as well as console gaming systems, eBooks, and the use of products offered over all types of digital interface devices- rather than with other human beings and parental or adult supervision?

Virtually There

It has come to full-blown media attention at this point that parents need to take a more proactive stance in the acceptance of modern technology becoming a part of our children’s education. Even if we are so busy struggling to make ends meet for our children and too busy to even spend time reading our youngsters a book at bed time – we should be helping them to go on-line, teaching them about exploring the internet with them and talking through what they find – in a mutual education and bonding exercise. Supervising children when they are using the web and allowing internet use only ‘in moderation’ may seem like a little extra work early on- but will save a lot of possible future problems.

Children need balance -using games and websites online can be both educational and act as a fun stimulant for younger children. There are some wonderful learning tools out there! However, when it comes down to supervising what they are doing, parents shouldn’t use the Internet as a virtual babysitter. We must make sure we are aware of what our children are looking at.

Internet Safety

Do you know what current tools for censorship exist? (Including tracking and tracing communications over peer-to-peer networks). Do you know how children get round the controls we put in place to prevent them from exploring the world of the internet? These questions highlight the challenge that some parents face in keeping up with their children when it comes to technology and in understanding what they can do to protect children.

A recent poll asking children about their use of social networking sites found that many are still chatting to strangers online, despite a number of campaigns warning of the dangers.

“Under-13’s”, many of whom are supposedly too young to sign up without parental consent, are managing to find their way on to these sites and befriending people they do not know.

The same poll found that 22 per cent of eight- to 11-year-olds have a social networking profile and have typically amassed 92 friends – but 12 per cent of these are people they have never met.

The figure rises for those in their early teens, with 80 per cent saying they have a social networking profile with an average of 286 friends. Shockingly, among 12- to 15-year-olds up to a quarter of these ‘friends’ are strangers.

The same shocking statistics exist in the world of internet gaming. There are reports warning that advances in online gaming means it is possible for children to be contacted by strangers from around the world.In fact, one in three boys in their early teens admitted playing games online with people who are not known to them. As a parent, allowing the use of the Internet to take the place of a real babysitter or caregiver may mean putting your child in significant danger.

Other Internet Problems & Solutions

Cyber-bullying remains a problem with one in ten Internet users aged 12 to 15 saying they have experienced it in the past year.

Around 13 per cent of girls this age have personal experience of being bullied online, compared to five per cent of boys.

Internet addictions in adolescents can be particularly serious because it can interfere with the essential emotional, intellectual, and social developments that occur during adolescence.

Parents frequently lament that their children know more about the internet then they do, and that lack of confidence in using the Internet is an issue for a number of parents.

There is a solution.  Get involved. Take a more active role in the prevention of future issues. If Internet addiction of some sort is already a problem parents of adolescents have the opportunity to take a more active role in the treatment, by providing a high level of support. The motivation to heal can only come from the child addict, but parents can help by giving their kids access to:

  •     Boundaries and expectations at home
  •     Rewards for positive behavior at home
  •     Group therapy
  •     Individual therapy
  •     Family therapy
  •     In-patient treatment
  •     Wilderness therapy

Wilderness therapy has been shown to be a particularly effective method for treating internet addiction in adolescents. At Pacific Quest, we have seen great success treating Internet addiction using our Sustainable Growth™ model, which focuses on the mind-body connection, the importance of nature, and the individual’s place within the community, as well as the essential aspects of clinical care.

If you’d like to learn more about internet addiction and how Pacific Quest’s Wilderness Therapy Program can help, please download “A Parent’s Guide to Internet Addiction in Teens and Young Adults” or contact us at 808-937-5806 today.

Parents, Is Your Child Dealing with Internet Addiction?

internet addicion wildreness therapyIf you’ve noticed that your child or teen is troubled and seems to be exhibiting signs of internet addiction, you may be wondering what you should do. Becoming proactive is important.

How You Can Help Your Teen’s Internet Addiction

Talk to Your Teen

Before talking with a child, both parents need to agree that a problem exists, then it is possible to discuss how to approach him, what to say and do, and what goals should be set. Should one parent think no problem exists, a teen could appeal to the more doubtful parent, which could undermine efforts to help.

Plan ahead before approaching your teenager, and that includes being prepared for emotional responses or outbursts as your child may feel threatened by both cutting down on internet time and being confronted about it. Refrain from responding in the same manner and lecturing on other topics. Stay calm, and keep the focus on the internet use while also acknowledging his/her feelings.

Show You Care

When approaching anyone about a perceived problem, you should expect some denial. Also, kids and teens can interpret your concern as criticism or blame. Reassure them by saying you’re concerned about certain changes you’ve noticed – fatigue, lower grades, social withdrawal, etc.

Often with internet addiction, underlying issues are the true problem and reason for excessive internet use. Troubled teens turn to the internet and gaming as sources of distraction, comfort, or friendship. You may be able to begin a dialogue about what is bothering your teen.

Be Computer Smart

Part of internet addiction is lying about online activities. Going through internet logs, searching histories, or installing monitoring software can help you as a parent determine your child’s online behaviors, but doing so can take some know-how. Also, the internet has its own language, so learning both technical and popular terms will also provide insight into what your teen is doing online – what they’re saying and to whom.

Set Boundaries

A natural response may be to restrict computer use completely, but this isn’t the best idea for several reasons. Firstly, children may resent you and interpret the action as, “I’m a bad kid.” Secondly, studies have shown that internet addiction has withdrawal symptoms similar to those of substance addictions; people can experience feelings of nervousness, anger, and irritability. Thirdly, it is unrealistic. Computers and the internet are everyday tools in today’s modern society.

At first, try having them to log their online time and activities for a short time. This way you can learn how they spend time online, and if they refuse, you are perhaps dealing with denial of internet addiction. Reasonable internet rules could include an extra hour on school nights with more time allowed on weekends.

Remember the ultimate goal is not control over your teen but rather help him be less psychologically dependent on the internet.

Wilderness Therapy for Internet Addicted Teens

As much as parents want to help their children and try to do all they can, sometimes it isn’t enough. Seeking outside help is OK. A growing alternative to traditional therapy sessions is wilderness therapy for teens. Wilderness therapy programs have been able to help troubled adolescents deal with a variety of issues – from internet or substance addictions to mood behavior problems or poor social skills.

Hawaii’s Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program was set up with a belief in whole person wellness and sustainable growth. An important factor in that growth and change is family, an invaluable source of support. Pacific Quest offers the opportunity for parents to discuss their concerns and identify areas of struggle. So your teen is learning to become her best self, you can learn new parenting skills and strategies and how to better communication with her when she returns home.

For more information about Pacific Quests program, you can call or email and find out if Pacific Quest wilderness therapy program is right for your troubled teen.

Technology and the Pressure to Be Cool

internet addiction wilderness therapyTimes have surely changed, but peer pressure has always been a factor in life for both adults and kids. There has long been that pressure to fit in and look “cool.” Whatever that ideal of cool may be, today it incorporates technology and the gadgets we own.

Apple had been the trendsetter for tech-savvy coolness with the introduction of its iPhone, the first smartphone. It was a revolutionary machine that was as much a computer, camera, MP3 player, and gaming device as it was a phone. Now Android-powered or Microsoft smartphones are getting the edge on the ubiquitous iPhone. iPhones, marketers say, are no longer deemed “cool” by the younger crowds. Those younger crowds are today’s teenagers. So when teens are trying to fit in, smart phones become a sort of status symbol as much as apparel brands have been.

The Trouble with Technology

But unlike fitting in with the latest styles, smartphones present a trickier situation. With web browsing capabilities, young children and teens have continual access to the internet through their smartphones. Research into the effects of today’s technology – from texting to surfing the web – shows that it is affecting how we – both children and adults – think, process information, behave, and communicate. In some cases, teens have developed internet addiction. With their smartphones in hand, internet addiction is able to flourish even when they’re away from a home computer.

Also, schoolyard troubles seem to have increased because of computers and smartphones. Expressing mean and hurtful things about others is easier when you don’t have to face the person you’re talking about but instead send something online in a social media post, on a blog, or through email or text. Termed cyberbullying, some kids may feel peer pressure to join in on bullying a fellow classmate – perhaps to try and fit in with or endear themselves to the popular kids or to avoid being bullied themselves. The results can be tragic; many teens have committed suicide because of cyberbullying. Many times, parents aren’t even aware there is a problem until it is too late.

It’s about Balance

Speaking of fitting in, not having a cellphone may make them seem socially excluded. In absence of cell phones, kids would need to talk in person or make an actual phone call versus texting. But since smartphones aren’t going anywhere, giving an adolescent a smartphone may be a privilege worth holding off until he is older, or perhaps limit their access to one.

Computers and cell phones are a fact of modern life. Taking either away isn’t a realistic answer. While monitoring software empowers parents, the most important tool is parent involvement. Talk to kids about responsible internet and social media use. Pay attention to their online activities. As parents become more aware, they can stop something before it becomes a problem – like internet addiction or cyberbullying. Though, considering the side effects of technology, we should all be setting aside technology a little more often.

Helping Troubled Adolescents

If a problem with school or internet addiction develops, getting help for your adolescent or young adult child is an important step. In cases of internet addiction, adolescents may be experiencing more than trouble with spending too much time online, such as depression, poor social skills, or bullying.

Wilderness therapy has become a therapeutic alternative for troubled teens and young adults. Nature is a great source of healing, and at Pacific Quest, students spend many hours working in organic gardens and exploring the natural beauty of Hawaii, where Pacific Quest operates. The program utilizes horticulture therapy, which combines gardening with traditional counseling theory. The results are amazing: decreased anxiety, reduced stress, improved concentration, increased motivation and overall life satisfaction. Pacific Quest aims to provide sustainable growth and change, so along with therapy, students learn life skills that can be used throughout their lives. Because, it’s all about balance.

A Link Found Between Drug Use & Internet Addiction in Teens

In 2012 researchers surveyed over 1,200 teens ages 14-19 on the Greek island of Kos about their internet use, personality, and substance abuse. The study included a portion that served as an “internet addiction test.” Some questions revolved around the consequences of their internet use. For example:

  • Did they spend more time online than intended?
  • Did they see a drop in their grades because of their online activities?
  • Did they ever feel annoyed if/when they were interrupted while online?

The study, published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, found approximately 15% of the teens qualified as heavy internet users with 5% showing signs of internet addiction. Past substance abuse was reported by 13% of respondents, including 7% reporting use within the last month.

Researchers found that the teens who reported using drugs also had notably higher average scores on the internet addiction test. In other words, as excessive internet use becomes a bigger problem for a teen, there is a greater likelihood of past or present substance abuse.

Researchers concluded these higher internet addiction scores could serve as valuable indicators of past or present substance use.

Signs of Internet Addiction

The Greek researchers cautioned that the findings were links between internet use and drug use and not a cause-and-effect relationship. However, the information can still be helpful. “Targeting the adolescent population that engages in increased internet use may be of benefit for drug abuse prevention programs,” the researchers wrote.

Noticing how often your teen is online and being aware of their online activities are important.

Some signs of internet addiction in adolescents and young adults include

  • Preoccupation with internet and online activities
  • Losing track of time spent on line
  • Lying about online activities
  • Lowered grades or school performance
  • Feeling irritable when not at a computer
  • Physical aches and pains

If an adolescent or young adult you know exhibits signs of internet addiction or substance abuse, there are programs that can help, such as wilderness therapy.

Where to Go for Help: Wilderness Therapy

At this point, many understand the difficulties of dealing with substance abuse and addiction. For troubled adolescents struggling with internet addiction, it, too, can be a difficult issue to overcome because the internet is so accessible. And just as with substance problems, internet addiction is often about deeper emotional and mental struggles; the internet becomes a type of coping mechanism.

Wilderness therapy aimed at troubled adolescents can be a chance to get away from the source of their struggles. More importantly, wilderness therapy doesn’t have to be a last resort when other things have failed to help a troubled adolescent or young adult. Pacific Quest’s outdoor program differs because it focuses on whole person wellness by integrating physical fitness, nutrition, and self-awareness with clinical and horticulture therapies. The amazing clinical team helps students understand their issues in individual and group therapy sessions. The entire wilderness therapy program is set up around providing troubled adolescents with life skills and tools that will serve them in any situation and for years to come.

Internet Addictions in Review: 2013

2013 saw a huge rise in the social awareness of Internet Addiction as an actual classified “disorder”. The average American started to realize that it’s really not just about, ‘Oh, I just use my iPhone too much’. It’s really become a very pathological sensitivity. It’s actually now classified a compulsive disorder- something that you’re not able to control- that is now jeopardizing more and more lives.

2013 also saw the first hospital in the USA to treat severe internet addiction. Bradford Regional Medical Center, in Pennsylvania now has a 10-day inpatient program. Patients admitted to the voluntary behavioral health treatment center must first undergo 72 hours at least without Internet use, followed by therapy sessions and educational seminars to “help them get their Internet compulsion under control.”

Ding = Dopamine

We are currently a society fueled by the rapid-fire connectivity of pc’s, tablets, Ipads, iPhones, smartphones… obsessive internet behavior has basically become a cultural norm. At a certain point, an over reliance on internet—and the rabid need to distract oneself with online video gaming, shopping, tweeting, scrolling, “liking,” and blogging at all hours of the day and night—morphs into an addiction.

Addiction implies a pattern of use that you can’t stop. The compulsion continues, even though time spent online is no longer productive or enjoyable. An addict, by nature, is seeking a rush of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of reward and pleasure. The rush one is now conditioned to get every time they hear a “ding” on their phone or computer. It is a critical aspect as far as what separates addiction from just a bad habit

2013:Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-V)

Signaling a slow but steady change in how psychologists are defining variants of addictive behavior in recent years “Internet Gaming Disorder” did make it into 2013’s DSM-V (the “psyche bible”) as a condition for further study.

The DSM is “the manual used by clinicians and researchers to diagnose and classify mental disorders. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) will publish DSM-5 in 2013, culminating a 14-year revision process”.

In the diagnosis, the criteria are limited to “internet gaming” and do not include general use of the Internet, online gambling, or social media.

However, by listing internet Gaming Disorder in DSM’5 Section III, the APA hopes to encourage research to determine whether the condition should be added to the manual as a disorder. Progress, not perfection.

Review: Internet Addiction criteria

With 2013 studies showing that the average American teen is clocking in at over seven hours of daily Internet use, it might be useful to review what is commonly accepted as the five key criteria of Internet addiction:

1. Excess: The Internet becomes the most important activity in the teen or young adult’s life, affecting feelings, behaviors and thoughts.

2. Mood modification: The teen or young adult receives an emotional “buzz” from using the Internet.

3. Tolerance: They become acclimatized, requiring increasing amounts of Internet time to get that “buzz.”

4. Withdrawal symptoms: Abruptly ceasing Internet activity will cause them emotional or physical distress.

5. Relapse: The addict tends to fall back into the same behavior very easily, even after some abstinence or control.

When these types of behavior are seen, it’s really only the tip of the iceberg. You’re often going to find underlying mental health issues- like ADHD, depression and anxiety. All of which frequently go undiagnosed until Internet addiction spins out of control.

The real problem being that most people laugh, shrug it off and don’t consider it a serious thing.

2014: Digital Detox

Of course, not every person who spends hours surfing the web each day suffers from an internet addiction. But seriously, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, we might discover that many of our own online habits have more of a negative than positive effect on our lives! After all, what good really comes from checking one’s Facebook page 15 times a day, or avoiding the outside world to live in a virtual one?

Digital detoxifying, in wilderness therapy programs such as Pacific Quest, are a popular form of treatment for teens and young adults struggling with addictions of many kinds, including abuse or misuse of video games and the Internet. Pacific Quest has the advantage of giving teens, adolescents and young adults the constant access to mental and physical health care professionals and frequent therapy sessions, while removing them completely from the object of the addiction and the life situations that may have supported the addiction in the first place. At the same time, treatment centers give addicts a chance to get a hold on to underlying issues, such as depression and anxiety.

A wonderful “New Years Resolution” for people of any age, would be to start off the New Year by using some “digital detox”. Let’s try putting down the phone, powering off the computer, and making some real memories without the aid of an electronic device. We might be surprised by how much, or how little, we actually miss it.

Socialization in the Age of the Internet

Losing Our Chance to Learn to Be a Friend

One of the signs of internet addiction is withdrawal from friends and family and even from hobbies and activities that a person once enjoyed.

But why is this?

After all, social media and instant messaging, etc., seem to be the main ways teens and young adults stay in touch with friends…right?? Well, having hundreds of “friends” online does not equal hundreds of true friendships. The result: superficial relationships. When combined with the popularity of texting, it means children and adolescents are losing out on face-to-face interactions and its benefits.Outdoor therapy program_ Wilderness program for adolescents_Troubled teens_Outdoor therapy_Wilderness program for young adults

As kids grow and develop, they learn how to socialize – how to make friends, how to be a friend, how to interact with others of different ages, how to behave in social situations. This is truly a skill, which should not be taken for granted. Research has shown that adults are affected by the constant connectivity from computers and smartphones. The brain can literally be re-wired, which seems to be having a negative effect on people’s ability to make and maintain deep relationships. If adults are experiencing these kinds of issues, then the effect on adolescents and teens may be more pronounced.

In this landscape, an adolescent trying to make friends yet may not have true friendships and figure out who he is may turn to the internet to find “friends” and fill emotional voids.

Internet Addiction in Adolescents and Young Adults

Internet addiction is more than an issue of excessive internet use. Often times, underlying issues lead people to use the internet or video games as a source of comfort. For example, troubled teens struggling with relationships in real life may turn to the internet. Social media, video games, and virtual worlds give the illusion that they are truly interacting with others.

As online activities and “relationships” gain more importance, real relationships with family and friends fall by the way side. Internet-addicted teens may also suffer physical pains and eye strain, experience headaches, and have falling grades.

Outdoor Therapy for Troubled Teens

The internet, social media, video games, etc., are all still relatively new and are a unique part of modern life. Thus, the long-term effects of this growing lack of true socialization are not yet fully known.

For troubled teens struggling with internet addiction and its effects – like poor socialization skills, an outdoor therapy program may be a great source of help, especially if regular forms of therapy have not made significant improvement.

At the Pacific Quest wilderness program for adolescents and young adults, students are immersed in a community setting. Organic gardening and horticulture are at the center of the outdoor therapy program. While working in our gardens, students learn to work together and how to communicate with each other. But more importantly, the calming effects of and connection with nature help students understand the issues in their own lives and how to deal with their emotions. The whole-person wellness Pacific Quests aims to provide means troubled teens and young adults develop important life tools, such as good communication and socializing skills, while also becoming more balanced emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Friends are what help us get through each day. To help a troubled teen or young adult, learn about outdoor therapy programs and the possibility of help and health they can provide.

Internet Addiction: Reasons to Wait to Give Teens a Smartphone

With recent studies estimating nearly 40% of 12-17 year olds have smartphones and that they are using the internet via smartphones more than home computers, it begs the question: Should kids be given their own phones?

Re-thinking the Usual Reasons

Kids need phones for safety.

  • Safety and quick communication are important. But with the internet at their fingers tips at any time of day, how safe are they? Unless parental controls are in place on a device, how do you truly know what your children are seeing or who they are talking to? Older generations were just fine before cell phones. And should communication be necessary, odds are kids can borrow a phone from a friend or adult. Another benefit of holding off on giving children a phone: Parents will need to be more aware of kids’ whereabouts, activities, etc., and who they are with.

They’re just using Facebook.

  • Social media isn’t as innocuous as it seems. Adolescents feel pressure to fit in, so they may post things to try to keep up appearances, but ultimately they do not fully understand the long-term repercussions of posting certain pictures, status updates, and tweets. Let’s not forget that social media is the platform that created cyberbullying.

Everyone else has a cell phone.

  • Speaking of fitting in, not having a cellphone may make them seem socially excluded. But in absence of cell phones, kids would need to communicate like past generations used to – by talking in person or making an actual phone call versus texting or “IM-ing” (instant messaging). That is a good thing.

Having a cell phone keeps them in touch with friends.

  • Childhood is a formative time for many reasons. For one, kids and teens are learning how to socialize. But in the age of smartphones with text and messaging capabilities, people – not just children – are having fewer and fewer face-to-face interactions, thus creating more superficial relationships, and a dearth of true, good communication skills.

Just as with cars and other adult responsibilities, smartphones deserve extra consideration. Cell and smartphones need to be thought of more as tools rather than toys, especially when they have internet access. Content that isn’t suitable for children and teens is a click away.

What Age Is Appropriate?

Of course, each case is different. Maturity level and sense of responsibility vary from child to child. It’s up to the parents to decide after considering all the pros and cons. However, not to be overlooked is the fact that the brain continues to grow well in a person’s 20s, and new research shows that the internet and other forms of technology actually rewire how our brains work even after only a few hours of use. If adults are susceptible to these changes and issues of technology, then surely adolescents and teens are, too. Ultimately, it may be a good idea to hold off giving younger children and adolescents smartphones as long as possible.

If an adolescent has begun showing signs that all this technology is affecting his daily life, then a source of help such as outdoor therapy may be a good consideration.

Internet Addiction in Today’s Adolescents  

Troubled adolescents are more likely to have an internet addiction as the internet becomes a source of distraction, escape, or pleasure. As the addiction progresses, a troubled adolescent shows signs of withdrawing from friends and family, waning interest in other hobbies he once enjoyed, increasing physical side effects such as headaches or pains, etc.

Outdoor therapy like that at Pacific Quest gets troubled adolescents away from the technologies that are causing them problems. Outdoor therapy includes organic gardening and horticulture to get trouble adolescents to relax but also give them a sense of self-accomplishment and purpose. Individual and group therapies help troubled adolescents understand the roots of their struggles as internet addiction is more than just excessive internet use. Troubled adolescents that go through the Pacific Quest outdoor therapy program learn to be a kid again while learning life skills to help them deal with challenges and situation in the future.