While it is easy to discount internet addiction as a minor issue compared to, for example, drug addiction, that would be a mistake – there are many ways to be addicted, and internet addiction is quickly becoming one of the major players. As a matter of fact, some 16% of young adults exhibit symptoms of an internet addiction.
Identifying the Issue
Like with any other addiction, one of the main components of identifying the problem is recognizing the symptoms. A teen with internet addiction experiences a change in personality to where they might seem more “normal” when online than in their regular life. While on the internet, they may lose track of time – and feel extremely guilty afterwards. Social interactions and personal relationships take a toll as well, with the teen’s happiness levels directly influenced by being on the internet. The teen may become isolated and neglect household duties.
Often, internet addiction goes hand-in-hand with other issues, including mental disorders, stress, or problems at home or at school. Changes in sleeping or eating patterns, or rapid weight loss or gain as a result of your teen spending all day (and night) on the computer, are potential signs of internet addiction.
Returning Your Teen to Earth
As a parent of a teen with internet addiction, there are several steps that can make dealing with the problem easier. Removing your teen’s internet altogether might do more harm than good – in this case, the internet is the equivalent of a controlled substance, with a sudden removal having the potential to cause severe withdrawal. Instead, try curbing internet use to a specific number of hours each day. Communicate with your teen and provide them fun alternatives – if they are doing something else they enjoy, they won’t even realize that they’re not online. Also, remember to be open with your child, so that if there is an underlying issue causing their internet addiction, they will feel safe approaching you.
If your teen’s internet addiction has taken over their life, it might be time to consider professional help.