Internet addiction is indeed a disease
First of all, it is important to emphasize that Internet addiction has been recognized as a disease with clear symptoms that can be identified.
The first time “Internet addiction” was introduced as a medical term was in 1996. Researchers at the time found that some Internet users exhibited addictive characteristics like pathological gambling. It took nearly 20 years of research and validation before the World Health Organization added the category of “gaming disorder” to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which includes online gaming. In other words, Internet addiction has been characterized as a disease.
Why do people become addicted to the Internet? The answer is that there is a problem with our brain’s dopamine system. Things like drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, eating, and even exercise can all raise dopamine levels and make people feel happy. In some people, these changes are particularly pronounced, bringing more intense pleasure than the average person, which is the most important physiological basis for addiction in these people. Research has found that digital technologies like online gaming, online gambling, and online shopping can also stimulate dopamine secretion, which can lead to addiction.
Which children are prone to Internet addiction?
In life, you must have noticed that some children are addicted to the Internet and some are not. Hey, this is actually the second point I want to tell you, some children are naturally at high risk for Internet addiction and need to focus on it. You can compare this to the situation in your own home.
First, as you can surely imagine, children with other psychosomatic illnesses are more likely to become addicted.
Teenagers are not mentally mature, and if they suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other psychosomatic disorders, they are more likely to network to avoid pain. We find that many of the children who come to the clinic have two or more medical conditions, such as depression + anxiety + Internet addiction.
Second, children with self-regulation deficits are more likely to become addicted.
Self-regulation is a pattern of behavior that consists of self-awareness, self-judgment, and self-response. That is, a person knows exactly what he or she is doing, what the consequences are, whether it is consistent with his or her values, and how to adjust his or her behavior if it is not. The development of this self-regulation ability has an innate foundation and an acquired learning process, just like the software that “runs automatically in the background” to help us control our behavior in life.
For example, if a child goes overtime in an online game, if he continues, it will affect the completion of homework and rest, making it difficult to go to school the next day, which is not in line with his goal as a student. If you have good control, you will choose to turn off the game, get up and move around, and go to another table to do your homework.
Unfortunately, apparently not everyone can be so sensible. Some children have a poor innate basis for their self-regulation mechanism, for example, they are easily excited; others may be influenced by acquired factors, such as depression, anxiety, the influence of the parenting environment, etc., and are unable or unwilling to appreciate the consequences of their situations and behaviors. This is reflected in the fact that they do not care about the harm of their own behavior and do not take the initiative to make adjustments, so they indulge in the Internet and cannot extricate themselves.
Finally, the family environment is very important, which we have always stressed. Lack of love and high stress are the two major risks in the family environment.
In a loveless family, parental conflicts, quarrels, cold violence, and even violent behavior will cause tension and relationship breakdown in the family, which will easily encourage children’s Internet addiction. Because in such an environment, the Internet is a clean slate and can serve as a refuge from pain and comfort.
In a high-pressure family, which you can certainly empathize with, is the vast number of parents who “want their children to become a dragon” a heart, the child’s learning pressure from inside to outside the school, in the “arms race” of education, the child’s life becomes mechanical and boring. There is a good saying that “how much pressure children have in the real world, how much happiness they have in the cyber world”.
To summarize, there are three types of children who are more likely to suffer from Internet addiction: firstly, those who already have psychosomatic illnesses, secondly, those who have self-regulation deficits, and finally, those who are in loveless and high-stress family environments. As parents, finding these problems and finding ways to solve or remedy them can effectively prevent Internet addiction from occurring.
How to determine Internet addiction
Here comes the question again. It is quite common to go online and play games, not only children play, but also adults love to play.
This is the third point I want to make.
There are five main symptoms of Internet addiction, so let’s look at them separately.
The first is priority. That is to say, children treat games as the most important thing in their lives, and when they play games, they don’t think about tea, food, or sleep.
Secondly, the state of mind changes. As long as you play the game, you will have a sense of satisfaction without worry. But to do other things, such as playing ball or shopping, there is no such feeling, and even can not raise interest, do not want to participate.
Again, it is tolerable. For example, the earliest you can play a game for an hour is very happy, but this happiness will decrease, and you need to keep increasing the game time to maintain the satisfaction, and even play games all night without getting tired.
Then there are withdrawal symptoms. This refers to a child who can’t play games for a period of time if something affects him, and you will find him a little distracted, or even feeling like an ant on a hot pan.
The last thing is damaging. Since games take up most of your child’s life, they affect your child’s life in other ways, such as constant conflicts with parents, drifting away from peers, deteriorating schoolwork, giving up other interests, etc.
To sum up, there are five criteria to judge: priority, you can not eat or sleep; change of mind, you will be happy when playing games but not other things; tolerance, you have to keep playing; withdrawal symptoms, you will feel bad if you are not allowed to play; damage, you lose your normal life.
I have left a questionnaire for you at the end of the manuscript. You can do it when you have time, and according to the guidance, you can determine if your child is an Internet addict. Of course, this is only an early warning tool, the real judgment needs to be done by professionals.
Prevention is better than cure
At this point, if you assess that your child has a tendency to be an Internet addict, what can you do to help your child avoid this pitfall?
This is the fourth point I want to sync up with you: in the face of Internet addiction, prevention is far better than cure.
Why do you say that? Two reasons.
First, although I have always stressed that you must go to the hospital if you have a problem, frankly speaking, the effectiveness of going to the hospital for Internet addiction is limited. Although some treatments have been developed for Internet addiction that can alleviate the child’s pain to some extent, no direct cure for Internet addiction has been found so far, for example, drugs to correct dopamine system disorders are not yet available.
Secondly, according to the 5% prevalence rate of this disease, it is impossible to help everyone with such a large base of teenagers in the country with more medical resources.
Therefore, prevention is far better than cure, prevention is the solution.
How to do it specifically? I’ll share with you four tips. Research has found that these methods are particularly effective for children who are still on the road to addiction.
The first is environmental training, where you can actively change the environment or the accessibility of the environment.
For example, the “no cell phone allowed on campus” rule makes Internet addiction much less likely. So at home, you can also set rules for your child, such as “no cell phones in bed”. One of my patients made an agreement with her parents to “leave her cell phone in the living room during bedtime” and then strictly enforced it, changing her habit of going to bed late and swiping her cell phone.
Secondly, for self-awareness training, you can urge your child to self-monitor by keeping a behavioral diary.
Online games have a “mind-flow phenomenon”, where time flies when playing, and your child often feels like he’s been online for 5 minutes when he’s had an hour. At this time, he loses the ability to self-awareness. Therefore, if you keep a behavioral diary before going to bed and review your day’s schedule, you will often make them sweat, “I didn’t do anything this day,” which can also motivate him to change.
Again, self-efficacy training helps children build a sense of reverse efficacy by giving them immediate affirmation to reduce their Internet use.
For example, “You have reduced your gaming time by half an hour today, and your time control has improved. If surfing the Internet creates a sense of self-efficacy, then using control of Internet use as a sign of success can also create a sense of efficacy.
Finally, for self-responsiveness training, you can focus on the content of life outside of Internet use.
For example, work on work and rest, exercise, and other hobbies.