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Monday, November 29, 2010

What Your Child's Facebook Addiction Says About Your Parenting Style

Here is a great article by Lisa Haisha, founder of Whispers From Children's Hearts Foundation that appeared in the Huffington Post.
Drugs, unprotected sex, drinking, bullying, smoking -- the list of parental worries often seems endless. And just when you think you have all the potential problem areas covered, your child or teen suddenly seems "addicted" to Facebook and other online social media sites. Is that even possible?
According to psychologist Kimberly S. Young, Ph.D. of the Center for Online Addiction, teen Internet addiction is becoming a growing problem. While there aren't any hard numbers to indicate just how many teenagers are becoming addicted to the Internet, Young estimates that five to 10 percent of Internet surfers suffer from some degree of Internet addiction.
Additionally, a recent Canadian study involving more than 5,000 children and teenagers revealed that 70 percent of parents know little or nothing about their kids' online activities. The study, which was conducted by the Ottawa, Ontario-based Media Awareness Network, also found that 70 percent of 13- and 14-year-olds admit to visiting private and adults-only chatrooms. What's more, most of these teenagers freely admitted that they were breaking family rules by visiting these chatrooms.
Another study from York University in Canada claims that Facebook users are "insecure, narcissistic, and have low self-esteem." So, does your child's Facebook habit mean you're a bad parent? No. But it does mean you have to establish some new rules and household routines. Here are a few things to consider:
1) Facebook Shouldn't Become a Surrogate For Real Friendships and Activities
Everyone needs face time with other people, not just screen time. Physical presence with others promotes deeper connection, and all people need to be touched, hugged and attended to. Therefore, just as you likely have rules about TV time and phone time, you also need a rule about Internet time.
Of course, kids today need to be online for school projects and learning opportunities. The problem is when parents automatically assume their children are online for educational purposes and don't question the child's real Internet use. Realize that it's easy to look busy at the computer, as if serious learning were taking place (just think how often you "look busy" at work when the boss walks by). That's why parents need to take a sincere interest in what their kids are doing online, beyond installing Internet monitoring software.
This is about talking with your kids, learning about their school projects and friends, and asking them thought-provoking questions about their day. For example, rather than simply asking, "How was your day at school?" (which typically elicits the response, "Fine"), ask something like, "What was your favorite part of today?" or, "What three new things did you learn today?" Such questions prompt more than a one-word answer and help you build connection with your child.
2) Help Your Child Uncover His or Her Passion
Everyone needs a purpose in life; your children are no different. If you want your children to limit their Facebook time (or time on other social media sites), you have to help them find an alternative. Simply saying, "Don't go on Facebook so much," won't prompt any change in behavior, as your children won't have any other activity to do that engages them. Therefore, as you start talking with your child more, probe to uncover his or her likes and dislikes.
There are so many things kids can get involved in these days, from sports to dance to groups of specialized interests. There are also numerous volunteer options, such as with a local humane society, senior center, library, museum or non-profit organization. Essentially, no matter what interests your child, chances are there's some way for your child to put that interest to good use.
When kids have a passion for something, Facebook and other social media sites will no longer seem important. Rather, they'll have a bigger desire to fuel their passion. And if their passion is something you or another sibling or friend can get involved in, too, that will make the transition to the new activity even easier.
3) Teach Your Children How to Use Facebook
One of the challenges with social networking sites is that they subtly teach children to commoditize relationships. In a child's mind, if someone has 4,000 Facebook friends and the child only has 400, it means that the other person is more valued. That's the kind of lazy logic that creeps into many kids' thinking.
To combat this type of thinking, ask your kids, "How many of your Facebook friends actually contribute to your life? How do these friends add value to you? What do you know about these people other than what they post on Facebook?"
Additionally, teach your children how to use Facebook responsibly. For kids, Facebook is a way to talk about homework and common interests with peers, and a way to keep extended family updated about daily happenings. For example, if your child gets the lead in the school play, makes the varsity team or gets all As, that's information worth posting on Facebook, as it eliminates the need to call and tell everyone the good news.
However, if your child is friending people they don't know, that's when Facebook becomes dangerous and opens the door to cyber-bullying, bad influences, and unforeseen dangers. Help your child realize that for their purposes, Facebook is not for meeting strangers around the world. They need to keep their network to known friends and family only.
4) Take a Proactive Approach to Facebook
Remember that Facebook can become catnip for attention-starved kids. Sadly, there are some kids who are basically raising themselves. They have no structure, no discipline and no one to give them the healthy attention every child craves and needs. Facebook can feed into this hunger for attention by incentivizing kids to "act out," post provocative pictures of themselves, or post shocking statements that can boomerang back on them and hurt their future.
Therefore, even if you're not on Facebook or think it's nothing more than a dumb waste of time, you can't ignore Facebook or social media any longer. Your kids are using it whether you approve or not. That's why you have to educate yourself about social media and be proactive in terms of how your children use Facebook. By getting involved in all aspects of your child's life, including their cyber life, you can teach them how to use Facebook responsibly and instill in them a true passion worth pursuing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Family Dynamics and Adolescent Online Gaming Addicts

As part of the recovery process, families are significantly impacted by online gaming addiction.  Not only are parents or spouses hurt by a loved one’s addiction but an addiction to online gaming can be caused by a breakdown in the family system, especially among children and teenagers.  Adolescent gaming addiction is a major issue in our society as teen online abuse is growing at an alarmingly high rate. Adolescence alone, regardless of the involvement in the Internet, is an extremely challenging and complex transition for young individuals. Exploring and attempting to discover one's identity as an adolescent can be an overwhelming stage in one's life. In the event that an adolescent is using online games to develop his or her identity, the more likely it will disrupt the family. A young, impressible son or daughter is now exposed to adults with different customs, values, and belief systems.  A mother or father can become worried about personality changes taking place the more a son or daughter plays the game.
Family dynamics can play a role in the development of online gaming addiction.  Children who are going through life transitions such as their parents recently divorced, they recently moved, or they are adjusting to a new step-parent are at greater risk for developing an addiction to gaming. In particular, children of substance abusing parents are shown to have an increased risk of using gaming as means to cope with problems such as school problems, health problems, delinquency, sexual problems, mental issues, and developmental issues. To complicate matters, it is much harder for a teen to recover from gaming addiction, especially when the computer is often a necessary component of their home and school environments. This chapter explores the impact to the family caused and created by online gaming addiction. Specifically, readers learn the family dynamics associated with the addiction and ways to rebuild a broken family system. 

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Younger Children More Vulnerable to Video Game Addiction

A question that I often get is how young should my children start to use the Internet. Or, how young should my child be before he or she should start gaming online? Mainly, this is due to the violent content contained in many games that are available. Parents are increasingly worried about how these games impact childhood development. One consistent factor in developing compulsive or addictive habits related to gaming addiction among children is that the younger they start online makes them more at risk to develop an addiction to online gaming. For example, a recent client of mine who was already 21 started gaming by age 12. In his younger days, Dan was drawn to Gameboy, Sony Play Station, and Nintendo with his friends, and gradually progressed to X-Box. He was able to manage how much time he spent gaming until he went on X-Box live. “It was like a whole other world opened up to me,” he explains. Suddenly, he was able to interact with fellow players inside of sit beside friends while playing the game.

Gaming had already become a large part of his personal identity, and despite having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) he was able to sit in front of the computer for hours. His parents became concerned when his gaming habit turned into an obsession. “He went into a trance-like state every time he went online but unlike other hobbies, he never lost interest in this,” his mother explained. “When he quit the track team, which he loved, we knew he had a serious problem and the game took over his entire life.”

What tends to happen is that parents initially see gaming as a healthy recreational activity among children but then it becomes more apparent that there is a problem as the child gets older. Say when the child goes to college and fails freshman year due to gaming. Say the child is put on probation or academically is expelled from college and loses a scholarship only to move back in with the parents. This is usually when parents see the ramifications of gaming in full bloom. They see how a son or daughter has let other important areas of life go by the wayside just to spend time gaming. One mother said that her son had three computer screens in front of me going from one game to the next. He was 22, kicked out of college, and living in her basement. She had no idea where to turn as he had no other goal except to play the games.

In general, there is not an ideal age to introduce online gaming to children. It is more important that clear time limits are used from the very beginning. This is important! Otherwise, without time limits, a child can play games for hours. With time limits, children then should be encouraged to engage in other offline activities - social clubs at school, learning to play a sport, learning to play an instrument, spending time with family, whatever the activities, these should be social and engaging for the child. The fear is if children start gaming so young, they will not to engage in social activities at school or at home, and the result is that gaming will always be their only focus.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Poor Social Relationships Linked to Video/Online Gaming Addiction

A large part of gaming is about making social relationships. Gamers often make friends with other gamers and it is these friends who may even first introduce the gamer to the game. Ultimately, online gaming is a social activity. Most online games include copious amounts of chats, allowing players to interact with each other in the guise of the characters they represent. The social aspect is a primary factor in many game addictions. Many people are lonely, have never felt like they belonged. People get a sense of belonging in the game. In some cases, it provides the only friends they interact with. Gamers can become hooked on this social fantasy world. Why chat with player in some low-tech Internet browser when you can go destroy the undead, complete epic quests, and chat in a large graphical extravaganza? Gamers can join guilds that provide a great sense of community and accomplishment when they take out those big monsters. Gamers are trying to make their mark on the world in these games and many like this aspect. Being the person with the biggest sword or highest level is what makes them keep playing.

Gaming provides individuals with an outlet for their imaginations. Especially among adolescents and children who are academically bright and who feel under-stimulated in school, they turn to the game as a place for adventure and intellectual stimulation. Such games also lure players with complex systems of goals and achievements. They drawn into the virtual fantasy world of the game and they internalize the game as a real place and others characters are seen as real people and not fictional characters. Especially in goal-oriented games such as “EverQuest” players engage in activities to develop their characters from one level to the next and compete to find valuable in-game elements such as armor and weapons. Players can find themselves wrapped up in the game for hours as they struggle to gain one more skill or weapon. Children who have problems in school due to low stimulation then may turn to video games or online games as a way to stimulate themselves. It has become a growing trend that children with high IQs, SAT scores, grade performance in general have been most vulnerable to gaming addiction. It might be something that teachers need to screen for regarding asking more questions of children about computer use in general and gaming use specifically. If we can find ways to prevent the problem through awareness and early detection, we can better stop the problem.