Is Your Teenager Addicted to the Internet?

More and more parents are seeing their kids and teenagers addicted to the internet, and it’s not hard to see why. Everything is online, from bills to shopping to social events and entertainment. In the 21st century, children grow up with their faces plastered to screens, but is it so bad?

A study done in the Journal of Psychiatry Clin Neurosci on 853 participants classified 97.6% of them as addicted to the internet. Internet addiction disorder is a condition heavily studied by experts, as it is becoming an increasingly worrying problem.

Nowadays, in classrooms, children are expected to have laptops or iPads to help with schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Outside of school hours, teenagers rely on mobile devices to keep in touch with their friends and peers. The problem begins when your child spends too much time online and not enough in the real world.

If you notice grades dropping or withdrawal from family activities, you may be concerned about your teenager’s internet dependency. As more and more information emerges about this issue, it begs the question: how do we treat it? Read the rest of the article for more internet addiction facts and what you can do to stop it.

Is Internet Addiction Real?

Internet addiction is called ‘nomophobia’ (the irrational fear of being without a mobile phone). It describes the anxiety or isolation felt by those who don’t have their device, for example, leaving their phone at home or losing their battery.

It is difficult to pinpoint the cause of internet addiction, as the validity of nomophobia still needs to be determined. An article from The New Yorker states that the internet is a medium for addiction, not an activity; therefore, significant time online typically has an underlying cause. So, if you spend time shopping online, the problem is not an internet addiction but a shopping addiction.

Nonetheless, excessive time on mobile devices is still a problem that should be addressed. If your teenager is an internet addict, there can be worrying short and long-term effects on their health, including sleep problems and text neck. For more information on this concerning trend, visit our smartphone addiction page.

Internet Use Statistics

Here are some statistics on internet use, which continue to increase as the world digitizes and mobile devices are introduced to younger and younger children.

  • Out of the world population total of 7.7 billion people, 63% use the internet. (wearesocial.com, 2022)
  • Older children spend around 5.5 hours online, while teenagers spend almost 9 hours on the internet each day. (Common Sense Media, 2022).
  • Both males and females report similar rates of constant internet use, around 27% for women and 25% for men. (The Recovery Village, 2022)
  • Each day, the average internet user spends almost 7 hours online. (Compare Camp, 2020)
  • Over 210 million people are addicted to the internet (Longstreet and Brooks, 2017)

How Does Internet Addiction Disorder Appear

Being online can be addictive because it produces a rush of happy chemicals in the brain, and the time spent on the internet increases as you chase that high. When you post a picture online, and the likes come flooding in, our brain’s reward system goes into overdrive.

The notifications we receive on messaging applications also trigger this reward system, making it challenging to stop compulsively checking our phones, according to The Health Site. While it can be hard to spot, you can see the signs of internet addiction if you know what you’re looking for.                

  • Lying: If someone lies about the amount of time they spend online, especially if you know it’s excessive.
  • Withdrawal: If an internet addict can’t go online, you may see them getting irritable or agitated.
  • Neglect: This can take on several forms, such as neglect of hygiene, neglect of personal relationships, or the neglection of a job in favor of going online.
  • Mood changes: Some examples include irritation from lack of sleep caused by internet surfing or anxiety from being unable to text immediately.
  • Physical problems: For example, dry and itchy eyes from staring at the screen, backaches, or finger pain from texting.

According to Mental Up, children who grow up playing on devices are at risk of mental and physical underdevelopment. Fingers that should be grasping toy blocks, building sandcastles, and learning to communicate with friends, instead tap away on a screen for hours. Scarily, this results in a delay of the fine motor skills and social skills needed for life.

Internet addiction can happen to anyone, child or adult. However, males and adolescents are the most vulnerable due to their age and brain development, according to JMIR Ment Health.

Internet Addiction Treatment

Luckily, there are ways to combat internet addiction. The first step should always be a conversation with your teenager. Express your worry to them about their time online and suggest ways to work around it, like limiting screen time before bed.

The next step is taking action, and several methods may be trialed before you find one that works. While it can be hard, internet addiction is a common problem that millions of other people go through and have successfully recovered from.

  1. Exercise: This is an excellent way to reduce screentime and helps with anxiety and depression because it lowers the body’s stress levels. A simple walk around the park is more than enough to get the blood pumping.
  2. Therapy: Talk therapy, group therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are commonly used by healthcare professionals in internet addiction treatment.
  3. Medication: Your doctor may prescribe medication to help with underlying causes of internet addiction, such as depression or anxiety.
  4. Tracking apps: Software like parental control apps can be incorporated to monitor your or your child’s internet usage. You can check their online activity, including what they’ve searched or who they’ve been texting.

Don’t Lose Your Teenager to the Internet

While there is no doubt that the internet is here to stay, how we use it is up to us. If you’re worried that your child is addicted to the internet, it’s best to act fast before it does any further long-term damage.

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