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The Internet: not just fun and games...

Internet use, for example in the form of social networking, online gaming and online shopping, is commonly associated with fun, pleasure and enjoyment.

However, it is important for parents to be aware that some young people do not use the internet to find pleasure, but instead to avoid pain. Young people facing emotional difficulties, for example depression, anxiety, and anger, are more likely to use the internet as a way of avoiding the situations or factors that are causing their distress. In this way, they withdraw from their difficulties in the real word to the safety and security of the online world. This can become an internet addiction or gaming addiction pretty fast.

So how do you know if your child is using the internet for fun and games or if they’re using it as an alternative way of dealing with difficult emotions? As is the case with most parenting practices, there is no golden rule for monitoring your child’s internet use, however below are a few signs for parents to watch out for, which may help to guide their level of concern:

  • Using screens when he/she should be in bed

  • Dropping out of previously enjoyed activities and not replacing the

  • Not completing school work due to time spent online

  • Spending more time with friends online rather than face-to-face

  • Exhibiting extreme emotional reactions (e.g. verbal and/or physical aggression) when asked to get off the internet or devices

The take home message for parents is this - If you are concerned that your child is becoming increasingly engaged in and addicted to the online world, then it is a good idea to check-in, and see what’s happening in their emotional world. 

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