What role the internet plays today in teenagers’ life and what impact it has
Teenagers and their parents
Guiding Research Questions
- How often is the Internet used by teens nowadays? (reasearch, interview)
- What content is viewed and used by teens? (reasearch, interview)
- What is the risk of the World Wide Web for teens? (survey, interview)
- What are the major problems of the Internet addiction? (interview)
- What are the symptoms of an internet addict? (survey, research)
- How to find the solution and normalize the situation with the Internet use by the teens? (reasearch)
Internet addiction (also referred to as online addiction or cyberspace addiction) may be manifested in different ways among teens today. Internet addiction for teenagers is especially problematic. Today’s teens have grown up with the Internet popularity and what is considered “really long time on the internet” by adults is just a common thing for teenagers. However, what may seem normal to a teenager does not mean that it is healthy, so the parents should be aware of the internet danger and web addiction. Internet use is different for each person. Somebody uses it extensively for work; others use it for social networking, like keeping in touch with family members or friends. Nevertheless, when it absorbs too much time, it becomes a problem. It causes negligence of relationship, school, work, and other very important things in life. If the compulsive Internet behavior is repeating, it is high time to think it over and it needs control or even treatment.
This disorder is generally the obsession with the online world where people spend a big amount of time being engaged in activities that are computer-related. These kinds of activities are social networking, web surfing, online shopping, video games, and internet pornography. Despite the fact that these are all subsections of the internet, they are not likely to interact with each other as, for example, online gamers are not likely to be addictive to social networking and likewise. The World Wide Web is now the most seductive place for teens that are more likely to be linked-in online instead of connecting with people face-to-face. From the other side, it widens the possibility of connections with people who live in different time zones and other countries. The internet is perfect for teens as the social networks of today like Facebook and Twitter let them be represented as whoever they want to be, not pointing out the information that might be negatively debatable. They choose their faces how they want the world to see them, and if they want to change it, they just delete it and upload a new picture that might represent everything, starting from the mood to social lifestyle. Most of the page is not edited by them, they just fill in the information, so it makes being in full view much easier.
Teens are the most influenced and easiest to get interested with new things, so the web advertising is emotionally charged and sensitive issue. Due to the researches, teens view more than 40 thousand ads per year on TV and are increasingly exposed to the ads on the internet. Moreover, the advertisement in schools, on the streets, and magazines is pursuing them every other day.
The advertisement on the website is placed everywhere, but it is properly organized and is not overdone despite the fact that it takes around 15-20 percent of every page. It is of the same design as the website and is structured due to teens’ interests.
There are also online games that teens may play online and the ads redirect to the game play window. Before starting playing a game, it automatically launches the bumpers (video ads) of other products, which you may not skip. These bumpers are mostly video games ads or movies. Here the problem is that teens may misinterpret the messages they receive and such advertisements may also distort the sense of reality for certain teens.
The top ads that are popular on the web for teens and at the same time the most harmful ones are food ads (fast food, cereal, candies, and sugar drinks). Of course, these are the ones strictly oriented on them. Also, taking into consideration the fact that teens may see lots of mature content, it is the whole another problem. When comes to teens’ ads, around 90% of the content is selling stuff and the other small part is free online study courses, books, and educational websites. Unfortunately, the internet is overloaded with fun content for teens and useful information ads are rare (Scheff, 2011).
Around the age of 7-8, children are not able to understand and identify the advertising nature, so targeting audience are kids/teens of 10 – 18 years old. We have to know the message teens of this age receive and help them to understand and decode the information they are facing, what the world is trying to show or sell them. Many websites have a good Parental Guide and Parental Control programs, which may be accessible on the bottom of the page. Unfortunately, these concepts are mostly misguided and will be applied to a small percent of teens that are using this website, but still, comparing to other resources, many popular websites nowadays try to inform parents of what their kids or teens may be facing on the website and what are the possibilities of the proper use of this content.
Cybersex or online pornography addictions are sexual addiction types and internet is the perfect source for feeding this addiction as it is really easy to access and it is relatively anonymous. It is easy and comfortable to spend hours on the internet in your home’s privacy and feed fantasies that are impossible in real life. This addiction is most harmful for teens as it really affects career, real-life relationships, and emotional health. For teens who are sexually addicted, sexual behavior is hidden, driven, and compulsive. Sex in this situation is defined and used to handle boredom and anxiety, creates a fake feeling of importance, of being wanted and powerful. These fake feelings create serious mental sex issues in most of teens and may be extremely harmful for them, as well as for the people around them. Parents find it very difficult to protect their kids from this kind of addiction. Here is also the problem that many parents try to minimize the issue as it is simply young age experimenting. The fact is that at this age teens’ mind is still under development to maturity and the sex addiction happens so much quicker than parents think.
There are teens that are really addicted to MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) –games like Everquest 2, World of Warcraft, Dota. Due to the fact that these games have no ending, the addiction is only growing bigger with the time spent on these games. The user never reaches the point that makes the end of the game or its completion, so there is always a passion for playing more. For teenagers who have behavioral challenges, mental health issues, and social life problems, adrenaline rush and sense of online game community in online gaming will be extremely negative.
Parents have to be informed about the situation with the internet nowadays; they also need to know what the situation is with their kids, what kind of content their kids are looking for, and how much time they spend in the internet nowadays.
There are no special diagnostic criteria for internet addiction. However, from the parents’ interviews that were gathered, here are some common signs that would determine the following:
- Excessive amount of numbers spent on the internet each day;
- Being online at every occasion;
- A small attention to homework or even its absence. Lowering of grades at school;
- Ignoring friends and family for more use of the internet;
- The teen claims that his\her only real friends are the ones online;
- Anxiety and anger when Internet time is limited due to parental advisory;
- Staying too late at night online;
- Lies about internet activities;
- A preference to use the internet over other activities.
As comparing with other disorders with compulsive behavior, no causes have been identified as the ones that lead straight to addiction to the internet. This addiction is widespread among teens who struggle with such disorders as anxiety, depression, poor-self-image, low self-esteem and Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Here is the list of Internet addiction symptoms that may be used by parents who might see the problem in their teens and their time spent on the internet:
- Obsession – when the person is offline, but still in thoughts of online experience and thinking about future online sessions.
- Tolerance – in need to play more in order to feel the same rush.
- Frustration, irritability, and anxiety when the person is not able to go online for some time.
- When the person abandons friends and hobbies for the time to spend on online activities.
- When the person, despite the problems at school and even health problems, continues to spend all the time in the internet (Thomas, 2009).
Physical symptoms in teenagers’ web addiction that are the most severe ones and are classified by doctors as the critical ones for health may include the following:
- Vision problems (dry eyes);
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (repetitive motions);
- Poor nutrition (refusing to eat, not regular eating);
- Bad hygiene;
- Headaches, neck pain, and back pain (Thomas, 2009).
By these lists, every parent or maybe elder friends of teens who have this problem should make a clear picture in what condition their kids or friends are. In order to make a survey, we should use the following criteria:
- Time spent on the internet comparing to the time spent on studying, real social activity, and regular rest (sleep, fresh air, sports, etc.).
- Teen’s interests in life (whether they have any need in the internet, whether these interests have changed due to the use of the internet, how the internet influences their interests).
- Studying and school marks (how much time a teen spends on studying, whether the internet influences marks).
- Health (in line with the criteria above, whether any of the symptoms are happening and what the current state of teens’ health is in comparison with other kids at school).
Teenagers’ natural interests and developmental needs are sensation seeking, exploration, collecting new information, feeling understood in different situations, chatting with friends, testing limits, discovering what is important for them and who they are, etc. The internet offers information on virtually everything as it finds people similar to you for you, gives excitement and support, describes the element of danger, and gives pieces of advice and social connectivity, and entertains people.
If a teen is not able to limit himself/herself on the internet, is unable to control his/her time and it creates problems in the family, internet addiction among teenagers may be to blame. There is no strict treatment for that. In order to determine at least a proper course for general treatment, it has to be oriented at the range of factors like age, compulsive behavior severity, and family situation.
Discussion of Benefits
Due to the current situation and the problems that parents see today in their kids, they should first check on their kids often. Seeing the problem, they should take into consideration that certain steps should be taken in order to help their kids with the internet problem, but at the same time not to disturb their social life and their interests.
In order to get step-by-step solution to compulsive internet behavior, there is also a cognitive-behavioral therapy that changes teens’ internet, smartphone, and computer perceptions. This therapy also shows healthier ways of dealing with inconvenient emotions like anxiety, stress, or depression.
A lot of teens respond to outpatient therapy like therapist or counselor sessions on the weekly basis. There is also a residential program and therapeutic teen wilderness program to control the issue among young people, but these programs are not perfect and mostly not popular. Therapeutic activities and specific therapies may vary from a teen to a teen, but the following points may have the best impact on any teenager who has an addiction to the internet:
- Group, individual, and family therapy.
- Supervised schedule for the internet.
- Modifications in behavior.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
- Therapy of expressive arts.
- Equine therapy.
- Recreation therapy.
Due to the researches of experts, around 10% of people are considered as addicted to the internet and many mental health professionals consider it as a clinical issue. They state that it causes a certain type of chemical brain reaction that is hard to determine. There are many websites that determine the level of internet addiction. They test people by special quizzes and showing the time spent on the internet, the content that gives the most influence.
As in case with the internet pornography addiction, there is initially the question of proper sex education that is supposed to be provided by parents. Sexual ethics should be the family education matter. Parents also need to realize that their teen will suffer from extreme embarrassment and shame. Unfortunately, the most spread method is authoritarian dictation that will never properly encourage the teens to open and share their emotions and struggles on this issue. Help of other relatives (like cousins, elder people related in the family) who may actually talk to the teen on this fragile issue.
There is also the whole another issue with sex abuse in the family, which is unfortunately overlooked. Sex abuse treatment is usually foundational to overcoming sex addiction.
Nowadays, our whole life is conducted via the Internet. Everybody may now order and purchase stuff for their life by the one click of a button. We may talk to people in the distance, socialize, play games, watch favorite shows, learn, and make business on the World Wide Web. However, many people and especially teenagers are known to recoil from the outside world and we must be careful and know about this trend. Especially kids or teenagers who socially interact with each other and try to form their wisdom and personality are the most easily influenced and fragile group in terms of the unsorted information from the Internet.