Q. My teen son spends hours a day on the computer. I’m trying to manage the situation, but there’s no way for me to control what he does when he’s not at home. I’ve tried to tell him being glued to the computer is not good for him but my generic argument falls on deaf ears. Is there any research regarding Internet addiction and negative impacts on teens? What can I do to help my son understand that his behavior is potentially hurting him?
A. The Internet and technology of today can be very addicting. This includes cell phones and iPhones. I am finding more teenagers than ever being addicted to the Internet and cell phones. This addiction is affecting their social skills, mental outlook and physical well-being. There needs to be moderation in the use of technology otherwise it can have long-term effects on our teenagers.
Parents need to place limits on their children and the time they are allowed to be online/cell phones. Cell phone use should also be limited. Don’t let your teens use phones between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.
I have referred many parents to an outstanding checklist by Dr. Kimberly Young, founder and president of the Center for Internet Addiction and Recovery.
Signs of Internet addiction
Young has likened Internet addiction to addictive syndromes similar to impulse-control disorders on the Axis I Scale of the DSM. She developed the Internet Addiction Diagnostic Questionnaire (IADQ) to diagnose the disorder. Meeting five of the following symptoms are considered necessary to be diagnosed.
- Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous online activity or anticipate next online session)?
- Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
- Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
- Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
- Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
- Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
- Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
- Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?
Other symptoms include:
- Failed attempts to control behavior;
- Heightened sense of euphoria while involved in computer and Internet activities;
- Neglecting friends and family;
- Neglecting sleep to stay online;
- Being dishonest with others;
- Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious, or depressed as a result of online behavior;
- Physical changes such as weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome; and
- Withdrawing from other pleasurable activities.