IAD or Internet Addition Disorder is real, it is impacting and in reality it is something parents and young people are having to deal with each and every day
I decided to write about this as I have a unique perspective. I am not a doctor, nor have any medical background to give you any medical perspective. What I am is a Mum of a 24 year old, and a Host Mum to now more than 30 international Host boys. Added to this, I am truly IT aware, as I am a programmer and have been running my own software company for 35 years. So my perspective is unique. I am writing this to give you some practical advice on a day to day basis.
Here is how Wikipedia defines this problem:
“Internet addiction disorder (IAD), also known as problematic Internet use or pathological Internet use, refers to excessive Internet use that interferes with daily life. Addiction, defined by Webster Dictionary as a “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal”, was traditionally used to depict a person’s dependence on the substance. More recently, the concept has been applied to behavioural dependence including internet use. The problem of Internet addiction evolves together with the development and spread of the Internet. As adolescents (12–17 years) and emerging adults (18–29 years) access the Internet more than any other age groups and undertake a higher risk of overuse of the Internet, the problem of Internet addiction disorder is most relevant to young people.
Excessive use of Internet has been found by various studies to disrupt individuals’ time use and have a series of health consequences. But the existence of Internet addiction as a mental disorder is not yet well recognized. The current version of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) noted that Internet gaming disorder (one type of IAD) is a condition that requires more research in order to be considered as a full disorder in 2013.”
But how does this help you. You now know this is a relatively new problem, which is still being understood and researched. So how can you deal with this today and now. That is what I hope I can assist you with.
Firstly, let us look at any parent/child relationship. You need to have ABCR in all areas of your parenting life:
Agreed Plan and Goal
I do stress that ABCR is essential if you wish to have success.
The internet is here to stay.
The biggest problem you will find is you can not actually eliminate the problem for it to go away. You can take away some things, but in the end, there is free wifi, mobile phones, libraries, and life which for a child requires a PC and the internet. You will not be able to just go without – e.g. like an alcohol addiction, so this needs a lot more effort and care to solve.
I would like to say that using Internet access as a punishment is excellent – but it will not solve IAD and in fact if you use internet access as a punishment and your child has IAD, you are in fact punishing your child for having an addiction, that they may not be able to control – and this is really tough.
The areas of practical improvement that you need to focus on are:
Believe it or not – food has a major impact on this issue in a practical sense. To find my sons triggers, I stripped his diet at age 7 and then slowly 1 item per week added back foods. There are thousands of sites with 1000’s of suggestions.
But in the end, I found my son had 2 major triggers – Brown Chocolate and Tomatoes. Now at 24 he can handle a single serve of tomatoes a week, or chocolate a week, but if he had tomatoes each day, he would be a mess. However, I have met another boy, for him the trigger was preservatives in bread.
Now, this sounds simple, but until your child can see what you see you are fighting an uphill battle. What I did, was discuss with my son that I believed that he used the Internet too much, too many games, Youtube videos etc. He disagreed (of course), but we spoke about logic and the reasons I was concerned. I did this in a very calm, logical manner. There was no finger pointing, no stress, nothing. Just concern. When he realised I was actually not worried for me, but for his future he felt it was fair to test and prove why he was right and I was wrong. I agreed.
So we set up a test plan. We did this by the following. 1 term (semester) at school, I let him use the Internet as he desired and we saw his school results. The next term, it was under very strict rules that I set with his approval, but in the end it was with very limited IT personal time. The end result was astounding. His grades went up from Average to Distinction.
At once my son saw the results difference. He stated to me that he did not study as hard in the term I limited him, and that also showed how much more the Internet was affecting him than even either of us considered.
So what was our agreement? My son was given X hours per week for free Internet time – total of 12 hours. Any other Internet usage e.g. Schoolwork that needed to be done was in front of me. Initially, I turned off the Internet – as his addiction was so bad, that he just could not help himself and this led to other issues that I have explained in the next portion of this blog. Eventually, in time, I could trust him to be sensible. Even today, he needs to watch his personal time, but overall this has been a big turning point.
If your child is not spending time on the Internet – what are they going to do? Giving them home work, or sport or a general thing to solve – will not help them. You have to help them open their eyes to opportunities and alternatives. This is where your work really steps up.
You really have to think of your child, their loves, and how to build this slowly. You have to be a consistent active participant. Your participation may vary depending on the activity, but it is best to involve your child’s best friend or peers, something that is great fun and if at all possible, something that gets them away from any form of IT and hopefully something outside.
This is also great for you. As a parent trying to find this option we did dodgem cars, rock climbing, bumper boats, musicals, walks, camping, holidays, fishing; I could write a page just on the things we tried. This in itself was really fun. So on a weekend, my son had his day that he could indulge in sleep, Internet, games etc. Then we had a family day. Out of interest, we ended up being Puppy Educators for the RSB and the life values, love and enjoyment we have all received from this, has been truly amazing.
The earlier the better – but even late is not impossible to solve
Like walking, talking, etc. If you never develop a bad habit, it is easier to correct. However, unlike a bad habit, when you have an addiction, you not only have to recognise it, but also learn habits that help you not have to face it in a day to day sense.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Now there are some excellent qualified people out in the market that really are skilled at this. We used a friend of mine that was IT trained and then later became a Family Therapist. Mr Brett Williams from Adelaide Night and Day Family Therapy, was the person that my son as a young adult went to see. I don’t know what they discussed, or what suggestions he made. But I do know, that I saw improved self control and confidence. My son only met with this person a few times, but in my opinion, they were of great help.
This is just awful for the parent. But sometimes you will need to do this. Tough love is often used for Drug addicts, and you can research a lot about it at rehabs.com.
But in short it means sticking to your guns because you love the person and want what is best for them. The child will not see this as love, but more that you are being mean – hence the terminology. During weaning off of IAD, you will experience this horrid feeling. Sorry, but you will have to deal with this. You need to remain strong for your child’s sake. Being a parent is not being a child’s friend. It is about parenting, and that quite often can be tough.
To help you, think about that horrid tasting medicine you had to take as a kid to get healthy. Well that is what tough love is. Horrid medicine for your child to get healthy.
I know I keep harping on this point, but I cannot stress this enough. This is not a short-term problem – if your child has IAD (or you think they may have it), then you need to be consistent. It takes 21 days in a row for a new habit to begin. So if you wish to come up with healthy habits to replace non healthy ones then you need to create a 21 days in a row that you are always doing the right thing, then the old habit is broken and much easier to fix if you ever go off track, you then need to make sure you have ways to measure you are on track.
Do not be afraid to ask for support from family, friends and professionals. IAD is nothing to be embarrassed about – this is real and it is here. This does not mean that you have done anything wrong, or there is anything wrong about your child. This is part of the Technological revolution and unfortunately you are caught in the wheels of change. So reach out for help if you need it.
I wish you every success on your journey.
Cate Schafing: firstname.lastname@example.org