Could Your Teen Actually Become Addicted to the Internet?

Warning Signs that Your Teen May Have a Serious Problem

Boy on laptop
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Although many teens enjoy using the internet, for some teens, their internet use can develop into an addiction. Their electronics use can spiral out of control until it develops into a serious problem. While some teens become addicted to video games, others become addicted to social media or other online activities.

Internet addiction isn’t yet a diagnosable condition in the same way a person could be diagnosed with a substance abuse issue.

Although creators of the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual seriously considered adding it, internet addiction wasn’t included.

However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a serious problem. Now that more teens than ever have access to the internet at all hours of the day through the use of tablets, laptops and smartphones, it means that internet addiction is likely to be on the rise.

Establishing Cell Phone Rules for Teens

Reasons Teens Develop Internet Addictions

There isn’t just one single cause that leads to a teen developing an internet addiction. There are however, some factors that can increase a teen’s risk of developing an addiction.

Teens who play online role playing games seem to be at a higher risk of developing an internet addiction. Interactive role playing games, such as World of Warcraft, seem to place teens at a high risk of addiction. Without a finish line or way to officially “beat” the game, people often get hooked.

Teens who have other mental health issues or behavior disorders also may be at more of a risk for an internet addiction. Teens with depression, ADHD, or anxiety may experience temporary relief from their symptoms when they’re using electronics. Electronics use can trigger endorphin release in teens with an internet addiction.

It’s similar to the way people with drug or gambling addiction experience changes in their brain chemistry.

Sometimes teens try to substitute a “real” social life with an online social life. Feelings of insecurity and loneliness may diminish when they’re talking to people over the internet. It can lead to further isolation as they begin to focus on online relationships only.

Warning Signs of an Internet Addiction

An internet addiction is more than just simply checking social media accounts often. It involves such a strong desire to be online that it interferes with other areas of a teen’s life. It leads to social, academic, and occupational problems as a teen’s online behavior prevents him from maintaining his other responsibilities. There are several specific warning signs that can signal your teen may have an internet addiction.

Behavioral warning signs include:

  • Spending vast amounts of time on the internet and constantly talking and thinking about spending time online.
  • Refusing to participate in social activities in order to spend more time online.
  • Exhibiting anger, anxiety, or frustration about not being able to use the internet.
  • Continuing to use the internet despite the problems that it causes with school or relationships.

Physical health indicators of potential internet addiction include:

  • Health problems such as headaches, backaches, and carpal tunnel.
  • Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep.
  • Vision problems, such as dry eyes.
  • Weight loss due to refusing to stop using the internet to eat meals.
  • Poor hygiene and a refusal to take time out from the internet to shower.

Seeking Help for an Internet Addiction

If you suspect your teen has an internet addiction, it’s important to talk to your teen about it. Express your concern and the reasons why it isn’t healthy. Try to set limits that encourage healthy internet habits.

8 Ways to Encourage Your Teen to Talk to You

If your teen has an addiction, the internet use may continue despite your warnings or disciplinary action. It’s important to seek professional help if you’re teen isn’t able to reduce his online activities. There are many treatment options available to help teens who have an internet addiction. Talk to your child’s doctor about your concerns and discuss treatment options, such as therapy. There are several different types of therapy that can be effective in treating internet addictions.

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