Addicted to Internet
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Addicted to Internet

Addicted to Internet

How to help your teenagers who are hooked online.

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Today's parents have plenty of new things to worry about -- concerns not even on the parental radar screen of the previous generation. Among them is the potential harm of Internet use and abuse.

Internet addiction can take various forms. Perhaps the most common and also the most potentially dangerous type is the frequenting of chat rooms. As a result of the anonymity provided by the chat rooms, teenagers are especially vulnerable to becoming infatuated with their conversation partners. And, in many cases, young people have even been exploited by ill intentioned adults who prey on victims they find in the chat rooms.

Other young people are hooked on video games. They spend endless hours playing the thrill-packed, adrenalin-pumping electronic challenges provided by the limitless array of computer games available on the internet.

Still others are enticed to view the readily available pornography which can be viewed for little or no cost. These sites are easy to find, sexually arousing and extremely habit forming. What starts out as a momentary "peek," can quickly turn into a compulsive routine that consumes many hours each day.

There are also unlimited "opportunities" to gamble online. Who needs the race track, betting parlor or even the neighborhood bookie? It doesn't take long for someone to get habituated to the adrenalin rush he feels while wagering hundreds and even thousands of dollars from the comfort of his own bedroom.

All these forms of internet addiction share a number of common features. In all cases, the individual never intends or expects to become addicted to the behavior. Initially, he is simply browsing or surfing the internet.

Once hooked, the individual becomes enslaved to the behavior which consumes more and more hours every day. Finally, in spite of the compulsive nature of addictive behavior, the individual exercises massive denial. He will insist he is not really addicted; he can stop whenever he chooses; and, the internet addiction in no way interferes with his functioning.

HOW TO PREVENT INTERNET ADDICTION

There are steps that parents can take to reduce the chances that their child will fall prey to this modern affliction.

1. Pay attention to your child's mood. If your child is discouraged, disappointed, dejected or disgruntled, don't assume that his unhappiness is only a brief, temporary state of mind which will pass by itself. If your child is chronically unhappy, you must attempt to uncover the origin of his discontent. If, however, you ignore his sadness, he may turn to his computer for comfort and/or escape, which will render him extremely vulnerable to falling prey to an internet addiction.

2. Cancel your internet connection. (Yes, it really is possible to live without it.) Even without an internet connection, computers can be used for word processing, some computer games, compiling and storing lists for shopping, simcha invitations or family finances, and watching movies. Today you can also get internet connection accessible only for email usage. Canceling your internet access will not render your computer obsolete or your child out of touch.

3. If you must have an internet connection at home, there are various website blockers and security measures available. Consult your local computer store for details. You can also install electronic surveillance which gives you a record of the sites your child is using and frequenting on the web so that you can monitor his use or misuse of the internet.

4. Insist that the computer be kept in a central location at home. Keeping the computer in a more public space can deter your child from using it to join an on-line poker game or to view pornography.

ONCE YOUR CHILD IS HOOKED

If your child is already addicted, do not despair. It is still possible to change the situation -- but rational arguments, I'm afraid, will be completely useless in this battle. Reasoning with an internet addict is like trying to extinguish a house fire with a squirt gun.

Traditional, individual psychotherapy or counseling may help those addicted to computer games or chat rooms, but will be ineffective in battling a more hard core internet addiction such as gambling or pornography. As explained earlier, internet addicts are notorious for denying their addiction. This massive denial places the internet addict beyond the reach of traditional therapy.

As with all addictions -- whether they be substance abuse, chemical dependency or compulsive behaviors -- the only successful intervention is a "12 step program," patterned after the original success of Alcoholics Anonymous. Today, there are regular weekly meetings of Gamblers Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous which can empower people to overcome their behavioral addictions. So far, there are no 12 step programs specifically geared to internet addictions, per se. But it is only a matter of time.

From your end, as a parent, the best help you can offer is twofold. First and foremost, encourage your child to attend meetings of whichever twelve step program suits his particular internet addiction.

Secondly, be sure that you avoid supporting your child's addiction through codependency. Codependency refers to the role family members of an addict often unwittingly play in enabling the addict to continue his self-destructive behavior.

For example, if a child is caught stealing money to support his online gambling addiction and his parents bail him out of the jam, they are enabling their son to continue gambling. Or, suppose a child stays up late to play video games and comes late to class or falls behind. If his parents then write excusal notes or do school work for him, they are acting as codependents.

The internet can be an incredible source of information which, if used properly, can provide invaluable research and learning opportunities for everyone, and especially for teenagers. It can also be an extremely dangerous trap that can ensnare innocent young people into self-destructive addictions, causing unimaginable grief and heartache to themselves and their parents.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Published: June 24, 2006


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Visitor Comments: 14

(14) Anonymous, January 26, 2010 4:22 AM

Addict here, FYI there is alot you don't know

I am an active member of the www.guardyoureyes.org forum. I can testify both for the faults in the 12 step sytem (It won't work unless YOU work), and to the benefits of it. I have been heavily addcited since my teenage years, and have worked a long way towards sobriety. I welcome any questions and comments at my email adress, but I highly recoment skimming through the above website itself. To breifly respond to the above posts: 11 : please see this site http://www.no-porn.com/test.html 10: This addiction and habbit phycologicly prevents a couple from connected on any level deeper than lust. If you truly have any interest in answering that question post it on the GYE forum at http://rehab-my-site.com/guardureyes/forum/index.php Although filters will block the computer from accesing anything immapropriate, anyone can always buy an electronic device that has internet on it (iPhone, Smart phone, PSP, etc.). And many convetional meathods exist to feed ones addiction/habit, such as looking at people, newspaper ads, store catalogs, Hashem Yeracheim! There is NO limit to the availablility of such material. Feel free to contact me at shemirateinayim@gmail.com . Please visit the site http://www.guardyoureyes.org/ My username on the forum http://rehab-my-site.com/guardureyes/forum/index.php is shemirateinayim and I am more than happy to guide you to the propper recources. For a detailed description on filters, as well as the simplest instructions to installing the best one see http://www.guardureyes.com/GUE/Filters/filters.asp

(13) David, December 10, 2009 6:01 PM

Check out this website

For anyone addicted, check out this amazing network of help: www.guardyoureyes.org Sign up for the daily chizuk e-mails and join their forum. This site saved my life!

(12) Anonymous, August 8, 2008 4:56 AM

Adults are addicted too--how to help?

I have a sibling who is very addicted--she spends hours and hours, is out of a job, doesn't take care of her health and is now talking on the phone every day with someone she met on the net, even calling him "sweetie" and they haven't even met! Isn't there also someone out there to help adults help their loved adults on this issue? How do you approach a sibling on this?

(11) Lynn, January 31, 2008 8:15 AM

I'm not addicted, but am I?

I ofenly use the internet for more than seven hours. I just can't stop myself. But then, if I wanted to stop, I can. I could leave the computer and the internet alone for more than two days. So, is this addiction, or not?

(10) Anonymous, September 15, 2006 3:48 PM

I'm addicted, I think...

I play 4-5 hours a day. Doesn't get in the way of anything, I do well in school. Don't fall behind becuase of it, do regualr exercise, so whats the big deal?

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