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Web and Technology Addictions: Part 2 Helping your Child who has Excessive Gaming Time or Social Networking Time

I Love You So Big Blog! – Lynne Namka, © 2011-12   

“Parents need to understand that when you’re giving kids a computer or smartphone screen, you’re opening them up to an entire world. But, if you’re teaching them how to behave and engage and be kind and respectful and be responsible for their actions in this world, then that will carry over into their digital world if you make the link that the two are the same.” – Laura Banks, parent

Is your child on line, playing video games or texting so much that he or she are disengaging from your family and from real life? Technological addictions function like all others—they can hijack your child’s brain by providing exciting activities that produce good brain chemicals. The desire to feel good through a mindless repetitive activity that turns on the good neurotransmitters in the brain can take over a person’s life.

The use of technology like all other activities can be out of control or it can be used with reason and balance. A recent survey showed that two thirds of parents had not talked with their children about the use of My Space or had seen their child’s online profile. Many parents are uneasy about how much time their child is turned on to the new technology but are helpless to doing anything but nagging or grounding the child from the computer. This rarely works.

If this problem is of concern in your family, you need education. To avoid a difficult confrontation with your child do your homework on addictions. Read online about this problem to know the challenge of what you are facing.

Here are some practical parental guidelines in helping your child establish safe, reasonable online behavior:

  •              Present a unified front with your spouse.
  •              Share your caring about your child. Begin with grounding yourself in love before your talk.
  •              Set out reasonable computer rules regarding which sites are appropriate and when and how much web time is allowed.
  •             Make all computers visible by placing them in public areas.
  •             Remind your child that online support is a poor substitute for real-time friends and getting a balance of both.
  •             Teach your child to avoid sexual exploitation in chat rooms by avoiding saying ‘I’m lonely” and by checking out suspicious new friends through talking with them on the phone or Skype or Web Cam.
  •             Warn your child that a sign of addiction is that more and more of an activity or substance is required to feel good and achieve the same level of satisfaction that was achieved before.
  •             Tell him or her that if they might have an addiction problem if they have symptoms of withdrawal when refraining from use or if they allow the internet activities to interfere with real life interests.
  •             Develop an internet time log so that loss of time does not become a problem.
  •             Be assertive and set your boundaries as to what is and isn’t allowed online.
  •             Talk with your child about cyber bullying and the moral consequences of hurting others.
  •             Support, don’t enable your child by giving into unrealistic demands and tantrums.

Encourage other activities that involve family, friends and nature time to counteract the over reliance on technology. Keep reminding your child to get the best of both worlds through a balance of real time and internet friends. The best of both includes real hobbies and activities and video games and social networking.

Here are some words of advice for young people who may be considering that they have a problem that applies to people of all ages from a web site page at www.video-game-addiction.org that discusses teen gaming problems and offers services from treatment centers.

“If you think there might be a problem, there probably is. It’s a tough habit to kick. It’s not like you can just stop using the computer altogether. You need it for school and to stay in touch with your friends. If you’re a gamer, most of your friends may also be gamers, meaning that you would not have anyone to hang out with if you stopped playing completely.

The best thing to do is talk to someone you trust. Maybe it’s your mom or dad, a big brother or sister or a good friend who is concerned about you. Tell them you’re worried about being obsessed and you need their help. Your parents probably already know there’s a problem, but they don’t know what to do about it, so tell them what’s really going on.”

Help is out there. Get support from those who really know the depths of addiction to internet activities. There are twelve step programs called Online Gamers Anonymous that can address addictive behavior at http://www.olganon.org/. Here is their opening paragraph: “On-Line Gamers Anonymous is a self-help fellowship. We share our experience, strengths and hope to assist in recovery from the problems caused by excessive game playing, whether it be computer, video, console or online. Our community includes recovering gamers, family members, loved ones, friends and concerned others. We know how powerful, cunning, baffling and destructive excessive game playing can be. It can be devastating to the real-world lives of gamers and to those close to them. OLGA/OLG-Anon provides a resource for open discussion, support, education and referrals. We advocate and provide a 12-Step Program of recovery.”

Part of this information came from the Healthcare Training Institute on Interventions for Teens with Web/Technological Addiction.

Parents of teens can support each other and share parenting tips. Pass this blog on to other parents who might use this information.

Web and Technology Addictions: Choosing Game Time or Social Network Time over Real Time Life Activities Part 1

I Love You So Big Blog! – Lynne Namka, © 2011-12   

“Addiction is when you try something for the very first time that you like it so much that you just want to keep on doing it and stop doing other things.” – A very perceptive six year old

Internet, social media and gaming addiction are the newest concerns facing some children and adults.

The simplest definition of addiction is searching for something outside the self to complete it. Being caught in addictions is to be bound up in a tyranny of sorts. Do you have concerns about possible addictive or obsessive technology behaviors for yourself or your child? Here are the warning signs and some red flag behaviors to look for:

  •             More and more time being consumed being online, social networking or playing video games.
  •             Staying online all night with the next day’s activities, schoolwork or job suffering.
  •             Feeling intense pleasure and excitement at online activities and then guilt for wasting your time.
  •            Withdrawing from friends, family or your spouse to the point of disrupting family, social, or work life.
  •             Thinking about being online during other times during real life.
  •             Lying to others or yourself about the amount of time spent on the internet or cell phone doing games or social networking.
  •             Over reacting and having a melt down when asked to stop or slow down online behavior.
  •            Feeling anger, depression, moodiness, anxiety, or restlessness (are these withdrawal symptoms?) when not engaging in online activity.
  •            Disobedience, acting out and an accelerating interest in normal sexual development.
  •           Having significant physical symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, migraines, back and neck aches, dry eyes and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  •           Spending significant money for online services, computer upgrades or gaming systems.

According to a recent survey, the multiplayer online role-playing games like Tetris, World of Warcraft, Halo 3 and Everquest are most addictive. Even an old game like Solitaire can become addictive. The brain becomes caught up in producing neurotransmitters that make the person feel good. Addictive activities boost the reward or dopamine system of the brain which may react highly in teens. After a while for some people, more and more of the social networking or gaming activity is needed to produce the same level of “feel good” chemicals in the brain.

Experts warn about how the narcissism of teens who share countless details of their lives has contributed to the stupendous growth of FaceBook and My Space. The prefrontal cortex of the brain which is responsible for logical, rational thinking and decision making is still developing in teens.

Introverted, lonely children who have trouble making friends are more at risk for becoming addicted. Sherry Turkle, author of The 2nd Self: Computers and the Human Spirit said, “The online environment is less risky if you are lonely and afraid of intimacy which is almost a definition of adolescence.”

Teens often seek the anonymity of validation from those they meet online, some of whom have questionable values. They also can inappropriately use it to experiment with searching for their identity and become caught in situations that are risky. Those with low self-esteem can use the web unwisely to escape the stress and problems of their lives. The research is coming in about the danger too much computer time linking internet addictions with overindulgence, obesity, depression and poor health. Loss of interests in things that used to please you is a sign of depression. Greater reliance on  Internet for social support was associated with loss of friends in real time. Some teens seek peer group chat rooms which have members who support alienation from positive parental values and authority figures.

Next time: How to work with your children and set rules to avoid or interrupt internet addiction.

Teenagers: Know Thyself and To Thine Own Self Be True

I Love You So Big Blog! – Lynne Namka, © 2011-12

“In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.” – Albert Bandura

The self-esteem research shows that young people who know who they are and what they stand for do better in life. Students who base their self worth on external factors such as looks, approval from others, owning material things reported more stress, anger, conflict in relationships and problems with school. A lot of our problems are self-imposed and a common one is to be dependent upon something outside yourself to feel good. We call this addictions.

One highly perceptive six year old neatly defined addictions for me. He said, “It’s when you try something for the very first time that you like it so much that you just want to keep on doing it and stop doing other things.”

The research shows that children who turn to outside sources for validation for self-esteem are more likely to use alcohol and drugs and have symptoms of eating disorders. Basing the self-esteem on only school achievement and not on all aspects of being a caring person creates conflict and stress. The students with high self-esteem reported having high internal standards, solid values, a sense of who they were and family support. They focused on something larger than themselves such as contributing to the well being of others.

Addictions run in families, so take a look at those who share the family blood line. We used to think of an addiction gene but now research shows that it is a combination of genes that effect the dopamine system that contribute to addictive behavior. The best solution to out-of-control addictive behavior is to avoid it in the first place. I used to tell my children that if they think they might get overly fond of a new highly-publicized snack on television, then just don’t try it in the first place. You can’t get addicted to something unless you try it and find your really love it. Cocaine, for example, becomes out-of-control addictive to ten percent of people who try it. That means there is a one chance in ten that you might be unable to keep yourself from using it, so why even take that chance?

Don’t be a naive parent. Keep your internal Crap Detector turned on when you suspect he is engaging in illegal or dangerous business. Tell your youngster ahead of time (like when he or she is eight or nine years old) that if he gives you reason to think that he is doing something dangerous, you not only have the right, but the obligation to search his room. As long as you pay the bills, you are ultimately responsible for what goes on in your home and that includes his room and it is part of your job as a parent to know what is going on.

I checked up on my kids on occasion when I felt there was something suspicious going on. I told them early on that trust was based on their behaving their good decisions and I reserved the right to “snoopervise” when I felt they might be engaging in risky behavior. That meant searching their rooms. By warning them ahead of time when they were young, it didn’t become an big ISSUE OF BETRAYAL later on. So when I found the Jim Beam whisky bottle in my thirteen year old son’s underwear drawer, I couldn’t be accused of being invading his privacy, This did give us a good opportunity to talk about drinking.

Educate yourself about addictive behavior so that you can intelligently talk with your children. There is valuable information on the web that will help give you words to explain this human need to get more of what feels so good but is bad for us.

Drugfree.org gives you information on how to deal with the fast pace of teen society. Prevent, intervene and find treatment for drugs and alcohol at this informative website.

Do an internet search on pros and cons before you decide to do drug testing on your child. Then check out drugtestyourteen.com

My book on addictions is called Avoiding Relapse: Catching your Inner Con and is available through www.angriesout.com



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