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
"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
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
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."