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Studies Show that Parents Need to Monitor Children's Internet Usage and Watch for Signs of Addiction

Bradford, PA - Parents seeking to avoid future tragedies similar to the 1999 Columbine High School shootings need to take a much more active watchdog role in monitoring their children's Internet usage, according to Dr. Kimberly S. Young, a psychologist who specializes in treating Internet Addiction.

"The Internet has been called a big city with no police," said Dr. Young, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. "The Colorado shootings demonstrated the kinds of activities many kids are engaging in while completely unsupervised on-line. For too long, parents have looked at their kids' Internet usage with benign neglect. This tragedy should serve as a wake-up call. It's time for parents to become more directly involved."

Young is the author of "CAUGHT IN THE NET: How to Recognize the Signs of Internet Addiction and a Winning Strategy for Recovery" (Wiley & Sons '98).  One of the book's chapters,  "Parents, Kids and a technological Time Bomb," is devoted to teaching parents how they can become better informed about the potential dangers lurking in cyberspace.

Not only can children with independent Internet access develop their own violence-oriented Web sites, learn how to construct bombs, and get hooked on destructive games like Doom, but, Dr. Young notes, they can also easily stumble into pornography and adult chat rooms, where pedophiles often search for unsuspecting youngsters to entice. Even children pursuing less harmful activities on-line can become addicted to using the Net, which often results in declining grades, social withdrawal, excessive fatigue, and acting out against parents and other authority figures, cautions Dr. Young. 

"So many kids have come to me and admitted they have developed problems from their abusive use of the Internet," said Dr. Young. "When I ask them if they have shared their concerns with their parents, they say, 'No way! My parents are clueless about what goes on over the Net and why I can't stop using it. If they found out the truth, they'd freak.' Parents tell me they ignore the dozens of hours per week kids spend on-line because they assume the Internet is purely educational, or at least it's better than TV. But it's parents who really need to educate themselves here."

Young has devised age-appropriate strategies for monitoring children's Internet usage and for making effective interventions for parents who suspect problem usage. Tips include moving the computer out of the child's bedroom into a more visible location, assigning Internet time logs and setting reasonable time limits, and encouraging more real-life activities with family and friends. Professional treatment for Internet Addiction may sometimes become necessary.  "The most important way to help is prevention," noted Dr. Young. "Parents should learn what their kids do on-line, talk to them about it, and know the early warning signs of trouble."




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