While some parents are worried about their teens getting hooked on drugs and alcohol, another growing concern for parents is teenage internet addiction.
There are many health and social disasters that could spring up as a result of spending too much time online. In fact, a new study found that prolonged internet is linked to obesity, social isolation, eating and sleeping disorders, plus depression and stress.
At the South African High School, each student was instructed to complete a survey that included questions about their daily habits, such as average internet use, sleeping habits, hygiene, exercise, and social interaction.
The students were also asked about health promoting behavior such as eating healthy diets and taking nutritional supplements. The students were organized into three categories according to the amount of time they spent on the internet daily: light user (less than 1 hour), moderate user (one to four hours) and heavy user (more than four hours).
According to the results, the common profile for a heavy internet user was a non-religious male studying engineering whose parents did not pursue higher education. Heavy internet users were least likely to eat healthy meals, exercise, or engage in healthy hygiene practices.
Even though the heavy internet users were more likely to develop health problems, they were also the least likely to seek medical treatment and develop stress-relieving practices. Plus, they had fewer friends and almost zero romance. Interestingly, heavy internet use was not associated with any type of substance abuse.
Despite the seemingly clear association between internet use and health and social function, there are some limits to the study that should be considered. The study did not determine if heavy internet use causes poor health choices and social dysfunction, or if individuals with poor health choices and social dysfunctions were more attracted to the internet.
The researchers mentioned three factors that could influence the time teenagers spend on the internet: early exposure to the internet and parental involvement and decreased parental monitoring which was linked to poor academic performance and delinquent behavior.
Fortunately, internet addiction can be prevented. Here are a few suggestions on how parents can encourage their children to spend less time on the internet:
Introduce them to new activities that do not include the computer.
Set a firm limit on the amount of time they are allowed to spend on the internet a day.
Most importantly, lead by example. If you limit the amount of time your child spend on the computer, limit your time as well.
I advise all my fellow teenagers to engage in other productive activities. Have some ‘me time’ and focus on things that keep your desired goal on track. Internet addiction should be taken as serious as any other addiction.