Last week, in Hooked on the Internet? we described the symptoms someone going through a so-called addiction to the Internet could experience. Today we continue discussing this issue, as, incidentally, a couple of days ago, several newspapers published the findings of a study on Internet addiction. The study was carried out in seven European countries selected by the European Commission and 2000 teens took part in each country.
Here goes an extract of the key findings regarding the use – or abuse – of the Internet by European teenagers:
- 12,7% of European teenagers are at risk of developing an addiction to the Internet.
- Spain tops the ranking with 21,3% of teenagers at risk of becoming addicted to the Internet.
- 1.5% of Spanish teens are already experiencing the symptoms of an Internet addiction.
- 27,8% of Spanish teens reported using the Internet to the point of neglecting other activities.
- Spanish teens are particularly fond of social networks and chatrooms. In actual fact, 91,6% of Spanish teens from 14 to 17 years old use social networks on a daily basis.
- 39,2% admits spending more than two hours a day on these type of sites.
Almost 3 out of 10 use the Internet and neglect other activities and they spend 2 hours a day online!! Why? Well, I think the Internet is just the perfect environment for teens to express themselves. But, why so long a day? Because teens who already show signs of addiction have no limits. Whose responsibility is that? In my opinion, it is the parents’.
This is my take on the issue. By the time working parents get home after a hard day at work, they also have to look after the household tasks, tidy up the house, cook meals, make sure their children do their homework. After all those activities, the little energy left is dedicated to winding down in front of the computer, TV or, if they can keep their eyes open, read a book. Or a combination of them all.
When the weekend arrives, little time is left for sitting down and chatting to the children to interact with them, exchange thoughts and give them the advice and guidelines they so much need.
My point is that we should reflect on the concept of quality time. Now, this is my personal opinion, don’t feel patronised. To me, it is not so much a question of how much time you spend with them but rather on the quality of the amount of time you dedicate talking to them. I am also a busy working mom and my energy levels in the evening are at its lowest ebb. But I try to make a conscious effort with my child.
I suggest even if only for 20 minutes a day, save this slot for you and your children. Switch off the computer; turn off the TV and the mobile phone. That will be your time, no interference from Whatsapp or whatnot. Chat in a natural way, do not resort to (tempting) one-way interrogations. Don’t take advantage of the new information they provide just to grill them.
Keep calm and actively listen. Find out what they worry about, what they enjoy, what they think of their friends, what they expect from you. Tell them about your worries as a parent but relate to them, you were a teenager yourself once – a long, long time ago -. Explain that enjoying playing games online or having a good time on social networks is OK, tell them that you also think that technology is fantastic, but in moderation. Make sure they understand the dangers of the networks. Do not alarm them, but make sure they know what could happen if they are not reasonably cautious.
In my humble opinion, if parents and children dialogue from an early age, children will naturally understand and accept the need for limits without kicking up a fuss or rebelling. I think this could be a positive and worthy experience! Well, I hope so, anyway. What do you think?