Watching your child play video games all day will inevitably make you feel anxious and worried that your child may fall into internet addiction.
At the “Walking with Children Who Are Addicted to Screens and Video Games” Seminar, Dr. Agnes Ip pointed out that at the present time, “Internet Addiction” is not treated as a psychological disease; instead, it is classified as a mental disorder, like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Five diagnostic criteria for internet addiction proposed by psychologist KW Beard in 2005 have been widely held as the standard in assessing internet addiction:
1. Is preoccupied with the internet
2. Needs to use the internet with increased amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction
3. Has made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop internet use
4. Is restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop internet use
5. Has stayed online longer than originally intended
It is worth pointing out that internet addiction is not limited to children or adolescents but can happen to adults too. Also, parents need to understand that sometimes internet activities do provide a platform for young people to gain a sense of achievement and find their social circle, so it should not be nullified indiscriminately.
To parents who are concerned that their kids may become addicted to the internet, Dr. Ip shared Madhan Prabhakaran’s six tips to reduce children’s screen time as a reference:
1. Be accountable
As children get older, they will challenge the rules set by parents. Once Dr. Ip’s son tried to run away from home as a protest to the screen time limit set by his parents. Parents can try to sit down with their kids to set expectations and goals, then come up with screen time reduction rules that are acceptable to both, so as to avoid unnecessary confrontation.
2. Be realistic
If your kids are spending a lot of leisure time on screens, start by cutting their current screen time in half to avoid having them overreact.
3. Be engaged
A lot of time kids turn to video games to suppress negative emotions like loneliness, anxiety, etc. If parents can spend time each day talking face to face with their kids and care for their emotional needs, it can help them deal with their emotions in a healthy manner, instead of relying on video games as an escape.
4. Put hand-held devices away
Set up family screen-free hours. During that time, everyone puts their devices away, like charging them at the same time, and one is allowed to have their devices back when their important task, like homework, is done.
5. Create phone-free zones in the home
If all family members can agree upon some phone and hand-held device free zones in the home, like during family mealtimes, not only can it reduce screen time, but also allow family members to be involved in more meaningful activities.
6. Go outside
Prolonged use of electronic devices has certain impacts on our health, like digital eye strain, muscular strain, poor sleep quality, and risk of obesity due to a lack of exercise. Parents can arrange some outdoor activities to strengthen their relationship with their kids, and to enjoy the holistic benefits of green activities for the family at the same time.
The internet has become an undeniable part of our daily lives. It provides us with endless information and entertainment and is an important medium for people to connect with each other. If your kids are spending a lot of time on screens, parents should try to communicate with them and understand the kind of activities involved and its purpose before coming up with a solution accordingly. Also, internet addiction is not limited to young people. Parents who are worrying about their children’s internet addiction should first examine their own lifestyle and not be the kids’ stumbling block. “‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). May all adults and young people have an appropriate and balanced use of the internet and not be mastered by it.
1. “Internet addiction: a review of current assessment techniques and potential assessment questions”, Beard, K.W. (2005) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15738688/
2. “6 tips to reduce children’s screen time”, Madhan Prabhakaran (2021) https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/6-tips-to-reduce-childrens-screen-time
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