Since Internet addiction is a relatively new problem that has just developed in the last few decades, many parents are at a loss for what to do when this problem affects their own children. Effectively helping and parenting Internet addicted teens can be a challenge, but parents will find the process easier if they keep the following two guidelines in mind.
First, parents need to understand that Internet addiction is a legitimate addiction. Although people who did not grow up with the information access, anonymity, and instant gratification that the Internet provides may not personally relate to the issue, they should not make light of it. Teenagers who are Internet addicted often show signs of withdrawal like agitation and irritation when kept offline, and they may make poor choices — such as lying or skipping sleep — to spend more time online. When parenting Internet addicted teens, therefore, parents should not treat the addiction as a trivial or self-imposed condition.
Second, parents should work on finding healthy compromises instead of forcing a teenager to completely quit the Internet. Since many teenagers have Internet-connected smart phones and many school assignments require Internet use, trying to force a teenager to quit completely is hardly feasible, and even if it were, doing so might be counterproductive. Instead, parents should focus on setting rules for how much weeknight and weekend time a teenager can spend online. Parents can encourage other social and physical activities as a healthy distraction. Parents should also talk to their teens about any concerns or personal problems that make the escape of the Internet especially appealing.
Parenting a child with adolescent internet addiction does not have to be radically different from parenting average teenagers. However, parents should show special sensitivity to the teenager’s addiction and have a supportive rather than adversarial attitude. It is certainly important for parents to address the issue of Internet addiction, but they should try not to do so in a way that is overly forceful or extreme, since such tactics are often ineffective in the long run.
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