Youth Internet addiction has reached a desperate and concerning level — so much so that it’s resulting in legal action.
Most recently, two California teens were charged with “conspiracy and willfully mingling a pharmaceutical with food” after one of them drugged her parents’ milkshakes to bypass a 10 p.m. Internet curfew.
When children begin drugging their own parents for extra minutes on the web, the issue has gone from comical to dangerous, and something needs to change.
Today, owning a Smartphone at 13 is normal. Of course, when we were children, Smartphones didn’t even exist. In fact, the simplest of cell phones were just beginning to “trend” as we grew up.
Now, you can turn on a single lamp in your home from hundreds of miles away by the touch of a button on your cell. In the vast scope of things, it seems as if technology has advanced more quickly than we have grasped the device itself.
Then we hand this technology to children, granting them all of this freedom with too little maturity. According to a survey NetSafeKids conducted, “76 percent of kids said they had used the Internet in the week before being interviewed, [at] an overall average use rate of three to four times a week.” The Washington State Office of the Attorney General reported that 1-in-11 children have been threatened or harassed online and 1-in-3 had unwanted exposure to pictures of naked people or sexual activity.
Many monitoring tools exist to limit the access children have with the Internet. But, with an abundance of supervision comes an abundance of loopholes.
Where rules exist at home or school concerning Internet access, friends’ homes and other places with Internet access often don’t have the same rules. Children are curious and when prompted with such new and “forbidden” information as a child, it only seems natural one will explore.
It’s important to instill rules for technological use even when much of what we do online can go undetected. Parents should focus on how their child will handle an inappropriate situation online rather than how to avoid encountering any at all.
Children should know that if something online makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe to immediately remove themselves from the setting and contact the proper authority if necessary.
Above all, children should learn that no piece of equipment that offers an abundance of entertainment could replace the relationships one develops with living, breathing people.
This past Christmas one mother became famous after writing a blog post called “Gregory’s iPhone Contract,” which included a list of strict rules to make sure her 13-year-old son would still have a productive childhood.
Many of the rules involved the amount of time he could spend on th phone, such as: Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm.
In addition, she left her son with some wise advice: “You are growing up in a fast and ever-changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine.”
Think about your childhood. Think about how much more fun you had playing outside and with your friends than you do now surfing the web or playing games on your phone. Human interaction and imagine is important. Shoudln’t today’s generation have the same experiences?