The technology available to the current generation of teenagers enables them to access multiple tools in the palm of their hands. Directions to a friend’s house, a homework assignment and even the text of a literature selection can all be instantly available. However, there are also endless options for gaming and other time-consuming Internet sites.
Recently, an expert in the field of technology and its addictive qualities wrote an article for Good Therapy. Michael Fraser, PhD, offered parents insights about the nature of compulsive Internet use and provided a list of signs that parents can watch for in their children.
Teen’s Healthy Use Of Internet
Fraser is careful to note that he is a big fan of technology. The ability to navigate any Internet site from a smartphone or laptop provides unprecedented benefits and allows individuals to work, learn and be entertained in any location. He also mentions that a teen enjoying a particular game or social networking site and spending time on it is not an indication that compulsive behavior is being exhibited.
One important point the author makes is that parents should use caution when terming behavior exhibited by a teen as an addiction. Overusing the word to describe even compulsive behaviors could act to trivialize addiction, and parents should be careful not to diminish the serious nature of the word.
Importance Of Balancing Internet/Video Game Use With Other Activities
Fraser emphasizes the need for parents to implement monitoring practices to ensure that technology interests are being balanced with other types of activities. He encourages parents to view video game play as a healthy behavior that is best experienced in balance with other choices.
Much of the article is dedicated to patterns of behavior that Fraser has witnessed among young patients whose parents are concerned that they may have a problem with excessive video game or other technology use. For instance, Fraser notes that individuals who are anxious or depressed tend to spend more time online playing video games and tend to have more trouble keeping the behavior at a point of moderation.
In addition, Fraser discusses the patterns of justification that may occur in the mind of a person playing excessive online video games. Thoughts or statements may use another, more generally recognizable dangerous behavior to draw a comparison, such as, “at least I’m not on drugs.”
Signs Of Problematic Technology Use In Teens
- Refusal to remove him or herself from the internet, video game, etc.
- Sudden drop in academic achievement
- Lack of interest shown in fulfilling responsibilities
- Increased level of argumentative interactions with family and friends
One interesting point by Fraser is that excessive video gaming and Internet use tends to draw those who have difficulty in social settings. The Internet may provide a hiding place where the teen is able to engage in conversations or offer opinions.
Importance Of Parents Monitoring And Limiting Technology Use
Fraser calls on parents to recognize their duty in monitoring and limiting technology use. Used in moderation, this form of entertainment can be healthy for teens, but parents need to know what signs may indicate that the entertainment has become excessive.
Compulsive video game use may be an issue that parents can be influential in shaping. When it comes to other potentially harmful activities, like substance use, research has shown that parents are the most influential factor in a teen’s decisions.
Parents should keep an open dialogue with their teen about video game use and how time is being managed. Agreed-upon rules for the use of video games, balanced with responsibilities and other types of free time should be discussed together.
While video games can be a source of disagreement and frustration for parents trying to curb what they perceive to be a compulsive behavior, they may be able to recast the activity as a positive presence if boundaries are put in place. Parents can play a significant role in helping their child keep moderation at the center of their interests.
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