The Internet is just like the world. It can be wonderful and amazing or frightening and terrible. Each person must choose the path to take.
On average, kids spend over 44.5 hours a week in front of a screen (i.e., smartphone, tablet, TV, computer, gaming console, etc).
A recent study revealed that 95 percent of UK teens are online much of the day. From that same study, which interviewed 2,200 teens, almost 40 percent admitted to fearing that they are addicted to the Internet. And those who felt addicted said it intensifies with age.
Mark Griffiths, professor, Nottingham Trent University, said that studies suggest that anywhere between 1 and 3 percent of Internet users may have a genuine addiction. But there are many who exhibit habitual behavior that has become problematic.
Despite the positive aspects of the Internet, there can be "too much of a good thing."
Once a habit becomes an addiction, it erodes self-control, focus, and impairs scholarly performance. Not just addictive, but more time spent on the Internet means more time for stalkers, predators, and cyberbullies to prey on your child.
Without WiFi, Life Would End
Some teens worry that they are addicted to the Internet -- and rightly so. An addiction is a compulsive need for something that is so strong that it can cause negative physical effects when deprived.
One girl from the survey shared that she feels nervous when she isn't online for a long time because she feels like she is missing out. This is the reason that teens always have their devices in hand.
And there seems to a correlation between taking a smartphone or tablet to bed at night and feeling addicted to the Internet. Almost 70 percent of teens take their device to bed. When in bed, 34 percent of teens socialize with friends and 23 percent view videos or movies. Of those who take an Internet-enabled device to bed at night, the number who believe they might be addicted to the Internet rises from 39 percent to 50 percent.
Internet addiction has evolved to the point that kids feel that they would not be able to function without the ability to contact friends, use apps, and surf the net. As if that isn't worrisome enough, addiction isn't the only threat.
Bullies and predators have ample opportunities to stalk and torment because of how much time teens spend on the internet.
Nearly 45 percent of teens have been bullied online. Each time a teen or child connects to the Web, they are increasing the chances of being bullied or stalked. Once that occurs, the problem can escalate quickly.
For a few Internet safety resources, visit:
Stay Safe Online -- the official website of the National Cyber Security Alliance, providing online security tips and resources for families.
Internet Safety Resources -- safety resources and tips compiled by Texas School Safety Center
Net Nanny -- provides software and resources to teach and protect children from addiction and other dangers.
It would be virtually impossible to remove the Internet from a teen's life without ramifications. Parents, however, should consider imposing rules or boundaries for how and where Internet-enabled technologies are used.
Is it a good idea for a teen to use a smartphone late into the night? Sleep is vital to a growing child.
A conversation about this issue between a child and a parent seems in order. Technology should be used wisely and productively to enhance communication and wellbeing, not to reduce it.
Note: This article and the opinions expressed here are from Russ Warner, Internet safety expert and CEO of ContentWatch, makers of parental control software Net Nanny.
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