Internet addiction: What it is.
The realities of the growing dependence on technology must now be factored into all our relationships. We are beginning to realize that we are losing valued, real-life connections. We think to put down our devices, but, unless we've outlined actual boundaries for ourselves, we often default to picking up our devices sooner than we'd expected, rather than later.
Sometimes consciousness is not enough to get us out of destructive habits. Unlike other addictions, which are self-destructive in more obviously critical ways (i.e., substance abuse), cyberaddiction is different in that their are no "quick tells" as to how destructive it may be toward our overall sense of well-being. And yet, just as a child knows the difference between sucking on a pacifier verses drinking milk from a bottle, we adults know the differences we feel with actual contact, interactions, and exchanges, versus those of the world via social media.
If you feel you are constantly defaulting to your smart phone when bored, or when work often demands your attention well past normal work hours, there may come a time when you view your own dependence on devices as "addictive," and to then question how important cyber-connection really is to your own well-being.
Together, we can develop a conscious plan as to how to manage what is "necessary," and also look for ways to consciously take breaks from technology. It's a complicated bailiwick within ourselves. Let technology serve you instead of becoming a slave to it.
KIDS & THE INTERNET
When our kids are restless, we look to then guide their energies toward something "productive" or "good" for them. When sports or outdoor activities are unavailable, parents often justify computer or iPad usage to be a positive alternative, assuming that it will help them navigate our ever-changing, technologically driven world. This makes rational sense for parents, as their children now have an interactive place to occupy their curiosity and energies.
However, new studies are emerging, indicating that many children who spend too much time in front of computer screens via iPads, Phones, or like devices, are being overstimulated. Their still-growing brains are being deprived of learning longer-solution problem solving. Much as our our physical muscles and strength develop over time, our brain synapses require similar learned functioning.
If longer term problem solving and focus aren't enabled, these "muscles" of the brain will not "grow" either. This is acutely felt in AD/HD kids and teens, as their impulsive actions are "fed" a never-ending stream of stimuli. Immediate gratification is met over and over again, solidifying the addictive associations and deprivation of longer-form concentration.
The takeaway here is that the brains of children are being weened away from longer-form learning--which requires more patience, deeper comprehension, and deductive reasoning--and instead, a non-attenuated brain will usually seek the instant gratification narcotic.
internet addiction in Teens
The same rules largely apply to teens as well. Their brains are maturing, but if they are already conditioned to the concept that "free time goes to the internet," other deeper forms of addictions begin to manifest. Along with gaming addiction, porn addiction is a growing issue. An addiction to porn may severely limit social relationships and interactions, fueling greater social isolation.
While part of the individuation of adolescence is to enable teens to make their own mistakes and hopefully learn life lessons, cyberaddiction may lead certain teens into self-destructive behaviors. A teen may even be somewhat aware of this, but not (consciously) care. This is where parents can step in, discuss, set boundaries, and mutually establish and sign contractual agreements with teens. Without establishing some agreed-upon precedents, the battles between teens and their parents inevitably escalate.
I look to work with your teen and you, the parents, to facilitate family agreements that WORK for all. This is the goal. This is the work. We will monitor and make adjustments, as over time new patterns and habits may emerge. It's a process of growth for all involved.