How much Internet is too much Internet for teens?

The Internet is an amazing resource allowing adults and teens to access high quality educational resources, positive family friendly entertainment and organizational resources. However, it is not without its dangers. When raising teens, the Internet is just one more place that is important to monitor.  Teens and adults alike spend hours on the Internet every day for work, school and staying connected. When that use becomes excessive, it can reach an addictive level. How can you know if your teen’s Internet use has reached an unhealthy level?

  1. Is your teen addicted to the Internet? Here are some symptoms to watch out for:

*Staying online longer than originally agreed upon

*Staying up late into the night or even all night to be on the Internet

*Sacrificing homework or other obligations in lieu of time on the Internet

*Moodiness, irritability when offline for a couple of days

*Loss of interest in other activities that used to bring joy

*Lying about time on the Internet

If your teen exhibits most of these characteristics and you feel that their Internet usage is causing or linked to isolation, depression, decreased responsibility, disturbed sleep patterns or other changes in behavior, make a call to your teen’s doctor for more information.

  1. Be an Internet mentor for your teen:

Many of the dysfunctional habits regarding Internet use are being modeled by adults. As a family, choose to have “technology-free” meal time, for example. Also, rather than using social media or the Internet in isolation, require open areas of the home for Internet use. Phones, tablets, and other devices (gaming consoles, etc) that can connect to the should be docked and used in public spaces in the home. Keep in mind that teens whose parents try to “limit” their use rather than mentor positive use seem to have more difficulty using the Internet appropriately.

  1. Encourage healthy exercise habits:

Because of the high quantity of time individuals spend on the Internet, obesity is becoming more of a problem. Healthy outlets for exercise should be encouraged. Encourage your teen to join a recreation sports league, sign up as a family for a 5K walk or run, or simply go shoot some hoops with some neighborhood friends. Unfortunately, a lot of young people who become addicted to the internet have isolated themselves from friend groups or were already feeling isolated. Understanding your teen’s social situation could provide some much-needed clues regarding their Internet use. Exercise is a great help on many fronts: it provides an opportunity for physical well-being and mental well-being. It might also help with the sleep problems that often develop for those who are addicted to the Internet.

  1. Encourage healthy relationships:

While social media provides a great medium to begin a relationship, it isn’t such a great place to deepen friendships or other types of relationships. One way parents can model healthy relationships and boundaries on the Internet is to seek permission from their children before posting pictures and content about their child. In other words, they may be your child and you want to share, but your teenager still should have some right to boundaries concerning the content you post about them on the Internet. In addition to asking for permission before posting pictures and accomplishments of your child to the Internet, it is wise to help encourage healthy face-to-face interactions as well. It is important for all of us to have time together in order to develop meaningful relationships.

  1. What to do if you feel your teen’s Internet use has reached an unhealthy level?

If after you read this article, you have serious concerns that your teen’s Internet use is out of control, a trip to the doctor or counselor is a good idea. These professionals should be able to help you better understand the full picture of your teen’s health.

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