As you know, at La Piazza we usually give advice to improve the safety of adolescents. Yes, those adorable half-child, half-adult creatures so vulnerable to the dangers of the net. Today we’ll talk about how parents can tell if their teenagers may be having an addiction type of issue or could be misusing the Internet. Actually, this article applies to anyone, regardless of age, so read carefully!

Although I don’t think it is clinically proven that an Internet addiction pathology as such exists, it is an ongoing debate and it is worth taking a moment and considering whether we could be making an excessive or inappropriate use of the net.

Hooked on the InternetLet’s see. In my spare time, I browse the Internet an average of 40 minutes a day on weekdays and about twice that time at the weekend. I use the Internet as a means to entertain and inform myself. I love reading various national and foreign newspapers so the Internet for me is one of the best inventions ever. It allows me to catch up on the latest events either through digital newspapers or through social networks such as Twitter.
Also, a while ago, a good friend of mine recommended me the game Angry Words (online multi-player word game) and I confess to be hooked to it. My only consolation is that it’s an instructive game the whole family enjoys, even though we are starting to get nastily competitive to see who gets the “angriest word”.
The rest of the time I spend on the Internet I normally use it to look up recipes, watch YouTube videos, listen to music and little else.
My husband also makes a similar use of the network and my daughter, in full pre-teen stage, really likes playing different apps and listening to music. She also uses the computer daily for homework or school work, but more out of obligation than pleasure, so that does not count. We try to make reasonable use not prevent us from making another different type of activity.

I personally think that, a person who feels fascinated by a hobby and invests in it huge amounts of time has the ability to learn, encourage creativity and communication. But I think the key for it not to become something harmful is based on making a conscious use of the Internet, knowing that many games, videos, activities, etc. may have an addictive component. Once you are aware of this, it is imperative to manage the time spent on the Internet to prevent it from turning into something harmful.

At home we know that Angry Words is addictive, and if we did not say Enough!, we would probably spend hours and hours on the computer that would stop us from doing other kind of activities together. The difficulty lies in establishing the limits between an intensive use of technology and the emergence of the direct consequences of the activity.

Take this extreme example: two teenagers from Rocklin (California) drugged the parents of one of them to avoid the ban on the Internet after 22:00 (see full story here).

So, how many of the following statements do you identify with?

  • You spend more and more time online to be in good spirits.
  • You are not able to reduce or control your access to the network, however hard you try.
  • You invest considerable amount of time in Internet-related activities, (purchase of books, testing new browsers, organization of downloaded material, etc.).
  • Social activities, whether professional or recreational, diminish or disappear because of your Internet use.
  • You stay connected despite knowing that this is a persistent and recurring physical, social, occupational, or psychological problem (sleep deprivation, marital conflicts, job neglect, feelings of leaving loved ones …).

Dare you share with us how much of your free time you spend online? Have you stopped doing things because you are compulsively glued to your computer?