Kids at risk of Internet addiction disorder? | Sunday Observer

Kids at risk of Internet addiction disorder?

Children and teens are often targets on the Internet, where they become easy prey for paedophiles. Child sex offenders actively look for youngsters on social networking sites and chat rooms. Children being gullible added to the anonymity of the Internet, sex offenders often try to exploit them via these sites.

To avoid these dangers, parents should carefully monitor their children’s Internet access. They should sit down with their children and speak to them about the importance of being careful while using the Internet. Domestically, placing blocks, (such as those recently introduced by Facebook), on certain sections of the Internet,is one way to avoid sexual deviants getting access to your children.

“Nowadays, cybercrime is the first type of complaint to be reported to the police so we should teach children the ways of protecting themselves from cyberviolence. We will be introducing a counselling service for those children who are victims of cybercrime and have a hotline for complaints,” said Minister of Women and Child Affairs, Chandrani Bandara told the Sunday Observer. She also added that her Ministry is trying to initiate a programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the University of Kelaniya, Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) and the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) to educate children islandwide on the safe way of using the Internet.

Currently, SLCERT is conducting various programmes to educate children on the effects of cyber-violence and the proper usage of the internet. Principal Information Security Engineer of Sri Lanka CERT, Roshan Chandragupta said that the SLCERT is actively doing awareness programmes for children. “We have an organisation called EDUCERT where the computer security incident response team is looking into the complaints related to cyber- violence from children. We are conducting a teacher training programme on using the internet safely, to find solutions when problems arise legally or technically,” he said.

Chandragupta said that they are conducting a training program provincial-wise for teachers so that they can go back to their schools and teach their students and assist them when they are in trouble. “We have been conducting this training programme for more than five years now. We can educate the children on the positive way of using the internet and to be safe but controlling internet access for children is not possible as it is not practical” he added.

In many ways the Internet allows us to be more productive and actually saves us a lot of time as we carry out our various day to day tasks.

Unfortunately, excessive use of the Internet can significantly interfere with the functioning of other areas of life such as relationships, education, work, physical heath, and emotional well-being. When going online is your number one priority, whether for gaming, chatting, shopping, gambling or pornography, you no longer participate in life outside of the virtual world so, Internet Addiction may be a problem you need to address. This is particularly so for countries where it is affecting large numbers of people, such as South Korea, where it has been declared a national health problem.

Dr. N. Kumaranayake, Clinical Psychiatrist of the Base Hospital, Kiribathgoda says that he daily comes across around five school children who are addicted to the Internet or video games and have lost their academic and social skills and are angry and irritable. “Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), also known as problematic Internet use or pathological Internet use, refers to excessive Internet use that interferes with daily life,” he said.

According to a Central Bank report, every 100 people in Sri Lanka owned 113 mobile phones and 13 fixed lines by the end of the year 2015.

This constant ability to connect with each other and having access to information at fingertips is radically changing the way Sri Lankans work, play and buy as a population. The number of active internet users amounts to more than 5 million.

According to the National Human Development Report (NHDR) 2014, the life style of 23% of the young people has changed. They spend their time watching movies and TV, leading to lower physical strength due to lack of physical activities.

This can be directly attributed to social media addiction which may result in low physical fitness as well. The NHDR confirmed that this is a life style change among the younger generation.

Several suicides were reported in Sri Lanka recently where there were sufficient reasons to believe that the deaths were the direct result of the victims’ engagement with social media. University of Sri Jayawardenepura conducted a research on internet addiction among University students. The purpose of this study was to identify the relationship between internet addiction and academic performance among undergraduates.

Dr. N. Kumaranayake explained the risks of overusing the Internet. He said that it can cause obesity due to excessive screen use, sleep problems due to spending more time on social media and exposure to light (particularly blue light). Stimulating content from screens can delay or disrupt sleep and have a negative effect on school work.

“Children who overuse online media can be at risk for problematic Internet use. Heavy video gamers are at risk for Internet gaming disorder. They spend most of their free time online, and show less interest in offline or real-life relationships. Teens often use entertainment media at the same time they do other things, such as homework. Such multi-tasking can have a negative effect on their studies.Teens featured on social media often show risky behaviour, such as substance use, sexual behaviour, self-injury, or eating disorders,” he explained.

He further said that 12% of youth age 10 to 19 years of age have sent a sexual photo to someone else. “Teens need to know that once the content is shared with others they may not be able to delete or remove it completely.

They may also not know about or choose not to use privacy settings. Another risk is that sex offenders may use social networking, chat rooms, e-mail, and online games to contact and exploit children. They also can be victims of cyberbullying which can lead to short- and long-term negative social, academic, and health issues for both the bully and the target,” Dr. Kumaranayake explained.

To help guide them, the American Academy of Paediatrics has made recommendations for children’s media use. According to these for children under 18 months, screen-based media except video chatting should be avoided while for children 18 months to 24 months, parents should choose high-quality programming and watch with their children. For children aged two to five, screen time to be limited to one hour per day of high-quality programming and for children aged six years and upwards establish consistent limits on the types of media used and time spent on them. However, many experts have argued that such screen-time limits do not go far enough in providing guidance for parents. These researchers contend that instead of focusing on how much time a child spends on digital media, parents should consider the content of that media and the context in which they are using it.

“Parents should teach children about technology from a young age. Explain that tablets, computers and other media devices are not toys, and should be handled with care. Discuss with them the many benefits of technology as well as the risks. Do not frighten them, but discuss the importance of respecting privacy and protecting personal information in age-appropriate ways,” says Dr. Kumaranayake.

He explained that video chatting with grandparents is different from playing a video game. “If you are entertaining your preschooler on a plane, the world will not end if she has a little extra screen time that day. Studies show that using digital media at night can interfere with sleep quality. Consider restricting the use of phones, tablets and computers for at least 30 minutes before bed. Think twice about letting your child use those devices in his or her bedroom after lights out,” he added.

“With younger children it is easy to see what they are doing online. As they get older, it is not so easy to look over their shoulder. Have open, honest discussions about what sites and type of content are off-limits. Do your research to understand the media your child is using, and check out your child’s browser history to see what sites they visit. Explore software to filter or restrict access to content that is off-limits. Some children who find it difficult to connect with peers spend more time online than playing with friends in real life. But digital friendships are not a replacement for the real thing.

Help your child develop social skills and nurture his or her real personality. I am very happy about governments moving to educate people on internet use for children to protect our young generation from another disaster,” Dr. Kumaranayake further said.

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