Excessive Internet use isn’t good for anyone — we’ve known this for some time. In children specifically, it can cause sleep disturbances, attention problems, and anxiety, and raise their risk for obesity.
School burnout in late adolescence due to excessive Internet use is more common among girls than boys.
A new study also confirms previous findings that too much screen time can lead to a vicious cycle of burnout in school — as well as depression. A critical stage to address the problem of digital addiction and burnout is when kids are 13 to 15 years old, the study also noted.
Researchers with the Mind the Gap longitudinal research study, backed by the Academy of Finland, published their most recent report in the May 2016 Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Exposure to digital addiction is most likely to happen if the adolescent loses interest in school and feels cynicism toward school, and that “fostering enthusiasm for learning is paramount.”
This is vital information in a world increasingly going digital. But what exactly does this mean to a family struggling to re-engage a child in an active social life and in school?
“Parents are often tempted to threaten, punish, guilt trip, or give consequences for the depression and disengagement behavior,” said Jessica Wade, a licensed professional clinical counselor and owner of Alfa Counseling and Consultation LLC in Dublin, Ohio.
“This only serves to amplify the problem behavior, which often turns into a hot power struggle between punitive parents or school systems and teens who stop caring because they’ve received messages from authority that their interests or effort are not as important as simple rule-following,” she told LifeZette.
The stereotypical rebellious teen may emerge from a misguided attempt to fix the problem, said Wade.
“Parents must recognize that the journey back to an engaged child will be just that — a journey. Start by accepting that a simple conversation will probably not be enough to completely change the child’s behavior overnight. The re-engagement process must be a family process, not simply an ‘attitude adjustment’ expected of the child.”
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[lz_bulleted_list title=”Tackling Online Addiction” source=”Alfa Counseling and Consultation, LLC”]Expect your child to have the same attitude toward school that you have.|Talk to your child about studies, friendships, and activities.|Express interest in his world and truly pay attention.|Consider a family guideline for device use.|Model the desired behavior.|Consider a professional counselor or school psychologist.[/lz_bulleted_list]
Wade urges parents to consider their role in the lack of engagement. If they are annoyed, confused, or overwhelmed by their child’s schoolwork, those attitudes are being shared with the child in large and small ways.
If you’re glued to your own devices, she said, it teaches your children to do the same.
“Consider adopting a family guideline for device use. Perhaps the family ‘turns in’ their devices during homework and dinner time, for example, in order to focus attention on the task at hand. Kids are smart! Seeing their parents bend the rules, or take shortcuts, teaches them to do the same,” said Wade.
Another critical step may be enlisting the help of a professional counselor or a school psychologist, as that professional might uncover underlying attention-span issues, learning challenges, or other behavior matters that need to be addressed before the child can successfully re-engage.
The Finland study also found that depressive symptoms and school burnout in late adolescence are more common among girls than boys. Boys, however, suffer more from excessive Internet use than girls.
“Today’s young people are described as ‘digital natives’: They are the first generation who have grown up with mobile devices and social media,” the researchers state. They point out the benefits to being online — “the pleasurable social experiences that are useful in later studies and eventually in the workplace.”
Technology can also engage and inspire young people to take an interest in science and technology. On the other hand, the researchers confirm that digital addiction can also cause burnout in adolescents and even lead to depression.
“The U.S. needs to focus on prevention for children and teens,” Dr. Kimberly Young of Pennsylvania told LifeZette.
Young, a licensed psychologist, international expert on the topic, and founder of the Center for Internet Addiction, said the most important piece of information in this study is the age at which it is critical to reach these kids.
“We need to be like other leading countries such as China and Korea, who run prevention programs in schools and focus on treatment for those with the disorder. Korea, for instance, integrated prevention programs in every school so that teachers as well as parents know the warning signs of addiction,” said Young.