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Are You Or Your Children Overusing Electronics?

While many people would seek immediate attention for a physical problem, mental health is often overlooked even though it is just as important to overall well-being. Trond Harman, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Keystone Pediatrics Chambersburg, is seeing growing mental health problems in kids and teens related to the overuse of technology. In today’s article, he shares some information that every electronic-user, and all parents, should know.

Are there positive things about using electronics?

Yes. Technology is a great way to connect to people and keep us in touch with the rest of the world as well. If technology is used in moderation, it can be a wonderful tool that includes things such as support groups, so that a person with a particular problem does not feel so alone. And it is obviously full of information that can help us know more about the world that we live in.

What are some drawbacks of too much use?

As I discussed in my previous article, too much use can lead to isolation, difficulty interacting with others face-to-face and an inactive lifestyle. This, in turn, can cause or contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. In addition, many people take gaming and internet usage way too seriously. Posts on social media can lead to comparison, jealousy, and drama issues. There are also addiction problems in the gaming industry that lead to players continuing to try and try and try to do better in a video game, and therefore spending numerous hours playing.

What advice do you give your patients about proper electronics use?

The best advice that I can give about using the internet appropriately and properly is to set a timer for yourself. When the timer goes off, you need to stop what you are doing and find something else to do. It is extremely easy to spend hours on the internet and not accomplish anything. I would also set goals for yourself when using the internet, because far too often we find ourselves looking for one thing, but instead go off in numerous different directions. We then later realize that we have not found any information about what we were actually researching, because we ended up looking at something else.

What advice would you give to parents about how much time is too much for kids and teens?

Parents need to set firm, strict limits for their children. The biggest issue that I find with technology, video games, and social media with children is that they will tell their parents it is causing them to be more depressed because the parents have taken away their technology. This may be true because it does give kids who are isolated a way to connect with others, but many times it is used as a manipulation by the children to make their parents feel guilty about implementing limits.

I’ve had parents do numerous things to help set effective rules for technology. These include only parents knowing passwords to the internet, setting timers, having their child earn internet privileges, and of course, monitoring what their child is doing on the internet. I am not sure if you can say how much time is too much for being on the internet, but during the school week if your child is spending more than two hours every evening on the internet or playing video games, that is probably too much.

What are some signs that it may be time to cut back usage?

Many times, internet addicts use the internet as an escape from real life, and a fantasy world to connect with people online as a substitute for connecting with people face-to-face. Many of those with an addiction to the internet are unable to achieve these relationship connections normally. Some signs of possible addiction include neglecting work or chores, losing track of time when online, hiding or feeling defensive about the amount of time you spend online or what you do while online, becoming upset when your internet time is interrupted, feeling excitement from being online, using electronics as an outlet for your feelings and feeling that your online friends are the only people who truly understand you.

Parents need to look for signs that their child is isolating themselves more or that their grades are dropping. Parents need to also communicate with their children to make sure that there is no additional drama that is being caused by internet usage.

As an adult, if you are struggling with meeting deadlines at work or you find that you are sitting at home much of the time playing games, then it is time to cut back on your usage.

It can be difficult to monitor yourself and your children, but by implementing a few effective guidelines up front for you and for your family, it can be extremely helpful with making sure you use electronics in a proper and healthy way.

 

This article contains general information only and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or care by a qualified health care provider.