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Health Risks of Internet Addiction in Children

Dec 30, 2023 by Vreny Blanco · 5 min read · Digital Wellness

Close-up kid on the phone
Image by Freepik

The internet offers many great opportunities for learning, creativity, and socializing. However, without proper guidance and protection, children can easily be exposed to inappropriate content or online threats. Furthermore, excessive computer use can increase a child’s risk of developing an addiction to technology. This can negatively impact their health and well-being.

In this article, we will explore some of the potential health risks associated with excessive computer use in children. By understanding these risks, we can take proactive steps to ensure the well-being of our younger generation in the digital age.

Internet Addiction

Internet addiction is an impulse-control disorder characterized by excessive internet use that adversely impacts significant areas of life. When children become overly attached to technology, they may develop addictive behaviors that can negatively affect their mental health and overall well-being.

Some of the health risks associated with internet addiction include:

Reduced Empathy

Too much screen time can inhibit your children’s ability to read faces and learn social skills, which are necessary for developing empathy. Empathy enables us to understand and appreciate how others are feeling so that we can respond in an appropriate and compassionate way. Empathy plays a critical role in fostering connections and building a more caring society.

Reduced Physical Activity

Another significant consequence of excessive computer use is a reduction in the physical activity. Sitting in front of a computer for long periods of time decreases opportunities for physical activity, such as playing outside or engaging in sports. Lack of physical activity can lead to overweight and other health problems that can affect children’s overall well-being.

Research has also shown that watching television or playing video games may increase mindless eating in children and adolescents. As a result, there has been an increase in obesity rates among children and teens.

Reduced Attention Span

Spending too much time in front of a screen can reduce a child’s ability to concentrate for long periods of time. This can affect their performance in school by making it more difficult to focus on tasks that require sustained attention.

Reduced Social Skills

Face-to-face interactions are the only way young children learn to understand and interpret nonverbal cues. Limited face-to-face interactions due to an over-reliance on computer-mediated communication can interfere with the development of your child’s social skills.

Face-to-face interactions provide valuable opportunities for children to learn how to interpret nonverbal cues, communicate effectively, and form meaningful relationships.

Reduced ability to interpret nonverbal cues can lead to social problems such as shyness, anxiety, and difficulty in interpersonal relationships.

Disrupted Sleep Patterns

Blue light emitted by screens can disrupt a child’s natural sleep patterns. It can make it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep. Blue light can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. As a result, children who spend too much time in front of screens may have a harder time falling asleep or staying asleep, ultimately affecting their overall sleep quality.

Psychological Effects

Children can be exposed to cyberbullying and online threats through online chat rooms, social networks and multiplayer games. Extended and unregulated exposure to these online environments can contribute to feelings of depression, loneliness, and a confused sense of reality.

Tips for Parents

The Internet can offer endless educational and entertainment opportunities. However, it’s essential to strike a balance and be aware of the potential risks associated with overuse. Proactively monitoring your child’s screen time can ensure their well-being and foster a healthy relationship with technology.

Here are some tips to help prevent excessive Internet use in children:

  • Talk to your children about the benefits and risks of technology.
  • Monitor your child’s use of social media and pay attention to the types of websites they visit and the games they play online.
  • Make sure your children participate in social activities. Encourage them to interact with friends.
  • Set parental controls on your child’s computer to block inappropriate websites and applications.
  • Use apps or protection software on your children’s cell phones to block harmful content.
  • Establish a daily sleep routine.
  • Turn off or put away all electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Children under age 2 should not spend any time in front of a screen.
  • No more than one hour of screen time per day for children ages 2 to 5.
  • For children ages 6 and older, set limits on the time and types of media they use.
  • If you notice irregular sleep patterns or a significant change in your child’s grades or behavior, don’t hesitate to contact your child’s pediatrician.
Girl using computer at home
Image by rawpixel.com on Freepik

Computers can provide a wealth of educational and recreational opportunities for children. However, it’s important to strike a balance and be aware of the potential risks associated with overuse. By proactively managing your child’s screen time, you can help ensure their well-being and promote a healthy relationship with technology.

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