Parenting has long been touted as the toughest job in the world. With apps that range from time management to cyber nannies, one might have initially believed that technological advances might have made it a bit easier.
But even with the helpful apps available for busy parents and the ability to contact your child whenever you want, has technology really made parenting easier?
- Experts suggest there are more than 210 million people worldwide suffering from internet addiction
- Pew Research says 95 percent of today’s teens have access to a smartphone.
- And 45 percent of teens say they use the internet “almost constantly,”
- Teens who spend more time doing on-screen activities had lower psychological well-being than those who did more off-screen activities.
- Teens who engage in online relationships with potential predators are most likely to keep those relationships secret.
- Overuse of technology can affect social and cognitive development as well as lead to depression and isolation.
- Science tells us that threats to today’s youth range from “various phenomena such as cyberbullying, cyberporn, cybersuicide, Internet addiction, social isolation, cyber racism, etc.”
- Teens who spend three or more hours per day on the internet are at higher risks for depression and suicide.
These are just a few of the alarming statistics parents face when it comes to their children and the internet. There’s no shortage of research, information, and statistics that tell us today’s youth face unique challenges compared to previous generations.
More than ever, parents should be aware that the threats facing their children are more than just cyber-bullies and predators.
Many experts have growing concerns regarding internet addiction and youth, and studies have been done that suggest young people specifically are vulnerable to this phenomenon. They say, causes students’ academic performances to plummets as well as suffering “health consequences from loss of sleep, as they stay up later and later to chat online, check for social network status updates or to reach the next game levels.”
Internet Addiction Disorder
Research shows that Internet Addiction Disorder is the result of brain activity that works just like other addictions.
Addiction results from the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This “feel-good” neurotransmitter is activated anytime someone feels pleasure whether it be drugs, monetary rewards, or sexual encounters. As with any stimulation, the more one uses it, the more their brain needs to create the same surge of pleasure. Internet addiction works the same way.
Where spending an hour or two on the iPad was once enough to keep your teen content, continued use can lead to additional time needed to get the same stimulation they once got. Or perhaps they’ve become addicted to a game or specific activity online that they just can’t get enough of. Whatever the reason, this is a very valid concern for parents.
But with well over half of American families working, parents can’t be everywhere, all of the time, which makes monitoring their children’s internet usage challenging to say the least.
What Can Parents Do?
Here are some ways to help prevent internet addiction and ward off additional threats to your child’s safety and well-being from technology.
Talk to your child.
Keeping an open line of communication is paramount in today’s digital world. Be sure to explain to your children the things they should avoid online, as well as establish clear boundaries when it comes to the length of time they can use the internet.
Get To Know Technology
Knowledge is power and this is especially true of technology and children. Don’t assume your child is telling you everything. Even the best, most prepared, and most-involved parents can lose touch with their children’s’ personal lives, especially as they transition into teenage-hood. It’s important to balance your open line of communication, with educating yourself on trending apps and activities among youths online. Talk with other parents who have children of the same age and find out what they are doing that works and doesn’t work, and to discuss possible concerns.
Set Up Guidelines
Be sure your child is clear on the places and times they are allowed to be online. You may want to limit their online activity during evening hours; Ensure they don’t use the internet while involved in family activities; or be distracted by apps or social media when doing homework. There are many guidelines you can incorporate to help your child maintain some balance in their lives. Work with your child as you create these guidelines. By discussing it with them and getting their input, you get a buy-in from them and they’ll be more likely to honor the agreement.
Watch for Worriesome Symptoms
Kids who spend too much time online can become disengaged from family activities and begin to neglect their studies and responsibilities. Other symptoms that your child may be spending too much time online include:
- Mood Swings
- Poor Personal Hygiene
- Neck Pain
If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, be sure to contact a professional who can help everyone navigate the challenges they are facing.
Use Technology To Your Advantage
The internet isn’t all bad.
For example, social media is the most popularly used internet tool among most youth and while it can have negative effects, there are some positives, too, such as being able to communicate with family members who live far away or stay in the loop of recent information. It also can provide connections for kids who are introverted or who have social issues at school; give them access to school assignments; teach them new things; provide tools they can use in their personal and academic lives.
Likewise, parents can use the technology to make parenting a little less stressful. You can use tools to protect your children when they go online and make it personal to each child. It’s increasingly difficult to stay on top of everything our children have access today without help. Trustworthy parental controls are simple to use but extremely effective at helping parents protect their kids from the threats that lurk in technology.