Curiosity, absence of a well based knowledge, free time and a place named Internet where you can find every answer to any question you may have or contact to anyone you mitght want are a breeding ground to spend most of the time in that place. Minors have those characteristics in common.
Internet has expanded teenagers and children world, letting them socialize and express their selves, augmenting their resources for studying, introducing a more peer-to peer-based way of interacting and learning. Those are the bright sides of the Internet, but it also has a dark side, which we cannot ignore.
There are two kinds of addictions: You can get addicted to a substance, but you can also get addicted to a process. This kind of addiction often categorizes as “new addictions”, “not chemical addictions” or “behavioural addictions”. Sometimes, when you spend much time doing something, you can develop an addiction to this process. When you are addicted to spending your time on the Internet, that has a name: Netholism.
Netholism is an internet addiction disorder, also commonly referred to as a compulsive internet use. It does not consist in spending much time on the Internet, but in letting this interfere with daily life because of a dependence to its usage.
This disorder has increased profusely due to the fact of living in a permanently connected society. Whatever you might need, you can find it on the Internet: If you do not find the right size of a shirt in a shop, you can buy it on the Internet; if you do not want to cook, you can order food to be delivered there; if you do not have a sibling to play with on the game console, you can play with a stranger online; if you need to study, all the books, articles and other resources can be accessed via Internet.
In these scenarios, it is very hard to be able to distinguish if a minor is experimenting any kind of Internet Addiction Disorder. Nevertheless, there are some ways of discovering this type of disorder. For doing so, you – as a parent – should ask yourself some questions:
- Is the minor incapable of stopping to use social media when he/she is requested to?
- Is the minor compulsively shopping online?
- Is he or she playing online videogames excessively?
- Is he or she gambling on the Internet?
- Does the minor spend the whole day in front of the computer?
- Does the minor have troubles with social relationships outside the Internet?
- Is she/he experimenting any troubles of not doing her/his homework or are her/his grades decreasing?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, we should take a deep look on the minor’s behaviour because he or she might be experimenting an Internet Addiction Disorder or Netholism.
Nevertheless, it will only be a clue. As we said above, we live in a 24/7 connected world and the barriers between the regular use of the net and the abusive usage of it are slight. So, you will check out whether or not this kind of behaviour has any negative impact on the minor’s life. If the minor is not able to prioritize his/her duties and tasks over being online, it is crystal clear he/she has a problem.
It is time for dinner and you call your son to join you at the table, but he is not coming. You call him even three times, but he has the smartphone in his hand, and is not willing to stop what he is doing. Even at the table, he continues checking the stories in his Instagram profile. You take his smartphone and keep it in your pocket and he is literally suffering because he cannot go on with what he was doing.
Another way of finding out if the minor is suffering this disorder is to analyse the amount of time spent using the digital devices, the frequency and the emotional manifestations about not staying tuned. If the minor appears to be depressed, anxious or agitated when he/she is not connected, or if he/she experiments frequent mood swings, netholism could be the reason why.
The Internet Addiction Disorder can also have physical manifestations, such as poor nutrition, pain on the neck, insomnia, dry eyes or poor hygiene.
In order to prevent netholism there are some useful measures to be deployed:
- To limit the amount of time spent using digital devices. Not only by a fixed number of hours, but also by controlling the day time for using them. For instance, never use the computer after dinner.
- Organizing talks at school on the right utilization of the Internet.
- Prioritize family moments over ICTs
- Children should always use the Internet under the supervision of an adult
- Parental control tools (see chapter 1) must be installed in order to avoid the entrance of children and teenagers on gambling or pornographic websites.