Excessive Internet use

Excessive Internet use

Many parents seem to find their children constantly online. Many children also multi-task at the same time; for instance, while downloading and listening to music while studying and chatting with friends or sending messages on their mobile phones.

The number of hours children spend online varies significantly. Although, there is no guideline for the ‘right’ amount of time for children to spend online, you need to discuss your expectations with them if their online behavior appears to negatively impact their wellbeing, or that of the family.

When do you know it is too much time?

Some of the noticeable changes in the online and offline behaviour of children due to excessive internet use include:

  • Online activities interfering with general health and wellbeing
  • Seeming obsessed with particular websites or games
  • Appearing anxious or irritable when away from the computer
  • Spending increasing amounts of time online
  • Excessive tiredness
  • A decline in academic performance and
  • Seeming isolated or withdrawn from offline friends and activities.

It is important to remember that some of these indicators may be developmentally appropriate behaviours for young people, particularly teens. Alternatively, they may also be indicators of other significant issues such as cyberbullying, other real-life problems and mental health issues.

Social networking

Social networking includes a variety of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Twitter. These platforms enable direct interaction between individuals. Users can post information about themselves, display photos, tell people what they’ve been up to, chat and play games. Social networking is an integral part of the social identity of many children particularly teenagers.

Along with benefits, social networking also has risks. Sometimes children can forget who they are communicating with online and who might see the information they post. It can be easier for children and teens to say and do things online that they might not do offline. It can also be easier to talk to strangers online than it is offline, and they may confide too much in people they don’t know well. It is important that children understand the risks associated with disclosing information about themselves online and know how to manage both their privacy and online ‘friends’.

Is your child old enough to use social media?

Most high profile social networking sites ask users to set up a profile with photos and information about themselves. 13 is the minimum user age required by Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Tumblr and Twitter. If your child is 13+ you should still consider supervising your child’s social networking profiles and ensure if your child knows how to report abusive content and deal with cyber-bullying or stalking.

Also ensure that your child knows how to report their concerns of any content on a social networking site to the website administrator. Look for the contact us section of the site. Many sites have ‘report’ buttons or a contact centre to help address issues around safety, offensive content, hacking and scams.