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.

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