Getting their fix: are children becoming internet junkies?

Getting their fix: are children becoming internet junkies?

How much time online is too much time?

A significant question that has parents globally taking a closer look at their child’s internet usage habits. Although there is no straight answer to such a question, with children spending more and more time on connected devices, when does regular internet usage turn into an addiction?

It’s not to say that internet addiction is exclusive to children. Looking at the statistics about what happens in an average ‘internet minute’, the scale of internet usage becomes almost incomprehensible. For example, a mind blowing 20.8million WhatsApp messages are now sent every 60 seconds globally [1].

Whilst many parents have complained that their children are addicted to their smartphones and tablets, this is often a light-hearted remark made to make children feel guilty for neglecting family time or the good old British sunshine. But looking at reports into young people’s internet usage, it’s hard to ignore the figures. With 7-16 year-olds spending on average three hours online each day [2], the question is whether children can recognise the line between exploring the internet and becoming dependent upon it.

I think that’s the key thing, it’s when children tip the balance between using the internet for fun and potentially impacting their physical and mental health through a reliance on it that we really need to question how much is too much. Children are unlikely to recognise this balance themselves, instead caught up in the world of apps and social media, seemingly happy in their own little bubble of internet excitement.

* There's a balance between fun and possible health problems
* Getting that next 'fix' becomes an addiction very quickly
So where does this leave us?

Demonising internet usage is not going to benefit anyone, the internet is a great resource that does have many benefits for young people in terms of education and mental stimulation but I think it’s right to assume that no parent wants their child’s life dictated by a screen. It’s not to say that any child spending X amount of time online each day should be labelled a so-called internet junkie, we just need to be in a position to have an open conversation with them about using the internet in a responsible and healthy way.

Like other addictions, recognising that there is an issue is a big step towards dealing with it. There are various ways of helping your child understand that their internet usage needs reigning in, but what’s important is that your child understands why you are concerned.

What we're doing about it

With products such as haandle, parents can take back control by setting timers and controls to help parents monitor internet usage and reduce obsessive behaviour. This in turn, can help parents educate their children on when is an appropriate time to be using the internet and begin to regulate how much is too much.

Technology companies are continually evolving to rebalance the growing overload of time spent online by children, and products like haandle allows parents to manage online activity by setting timers and controls to help parents monitor this usage and reduce obsessive behaviour.

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