Is your child constantly glued to the screen? Do you find them isolating themselves from the family to spend more time on the computer? Do they always look tired?
If your answer is yes to all the questions above, your child may be suffering from internet addiction. Once considered a “hoax” disorder, internet addiction has gained traction in recent years as more researchers and medical professionals have found that the effects of this disorder can be seriously debilitating, especially in young children and teenagers.
However, for some parents, it can be difficult to distinguish between heavy internet usage and internet addiction. After all, in this day and age, it’s impossible to get any work done without going online.
Another concern faced by parents is that they don’t want their children to be left behind when it comes to being savvy on the computer. With digitalization having become so strongly integrated into today’s working environment, children will have to grow and be technologically proficient to enter the workforce.
Even though these concerns are legitimate, the gravity of internet addiction cannot be ignored. Keep an eye out for these signs if you suspect your child’s internet usage is shifting towards something more dangerous.
Sign #1: Mood Swings and Agitation
Internet addiction may result in feelings of euphoria when online and despair when your child is asked to log off. This sharp twist in their mood, coupled with feelings of agitation when they are told not to go online might be a sign of internet addiction.
Sign #2: Poor Personal Hygiene
Do you find your child forgoes frequent bathing or even basic personal care just so that they can stay online longer? If yes, this may be a strong indicator that your child’s internet usage is becoming unhealthy.
Sign #3: Feelings of Guilt and Dishonesty
Children know when they’re doing something wrong. With internet addiction, they may just feel helpless and unable to stop. This turn can lead them to lie about their computer time and breeds feelings of guilt. If your child looks uneasy or scared when you ask them about their online activities, it might be time to have a serious conversation with them and address the issue.
Sign #4: Your Child Becomes Withdrawn
One of the most common signs of internet addiction is withdrawal and isolation. Your child might normally be happy to spend time with you and go on trips with the rest of the family, but lately you’ve seen them rush to their room after dinner to be alone or they interact less with the family and choose to stay glued on their social media accounts. These are worrying signs that should prompt you to check-in with your child and talk to them about their internet usage.
Sign #5: Frequent Dry, Red Eyes and Exhaustion
The body rarely lies, so look at your child’s physical health if you’re worried about internet addiction. Staying up late to play video games will cause dry and red eyes as will spending the whole night scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, so be on the lookout for these physical signs of exhaustion.
While this list of signs is only for educational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice, knowing these signs can give you an idea of what to look out for if you suspect your child’s online activities are becoming unhealthy.
However, there are some steps you can take to prevent unhealthy habits from growing into something worse. Firstly, talk to your child about their internet usage and let them understand why you’re worried about them. Having your child acknowledge that their gaming or online habits are unhealthy is the first step towards healing.
Secondly, try using Audra HomeShieldthat to control internet usage. Completely shutting online access is not recommended, but studies have shown that having controls in place can also help your child self-correct their behavior. It’s rather practical to block unwanted sites and long access to ensure a balanced online & offline life.
5 Things You Can Do When You Put Aside Your Mobile Device
Words by Celeste Goh
Studies have recently shown that the average Malaysian spends more than eight hours a day on the Internet, almost three hours of which is spent on social media platforms, and another same period of time streaming broadcasting shows – that’s more than half of the time when we are awake!
While the Internet has its plus points of keeping one up to date with the latest comings and goings – be it on global current affairs, or the latest gatherings of one’s friends across the globe – many studies have shown over the decades that spending too much time online has negative mental repercussions, leading to anxiety, sleeping disorders, depression, isolation and feelings of guilt. Not to mention, physical ones like headaches, weight gain, carpal tunnel and blurred or strained vision.
Simply put, spending all your time catching up on virtual reality, you will end up missing out on the more important things in real life.
So, without letting another second pass by, let alone another eight hours, here are a few things you can with your time, when you put down your mobile device for a change.
1. Do your readings through a physical newspaper, magazine or book
While electronic reading was made “cooler”, when Amazon launched its Kindle e-reader at the tail end of November 2007, recent research has suggested that physical reading materials are the healthier option compared to those viewed through the device screen.
Computer Vision Syndrome is a group of eye- and vision-related problems that result from prolonged viewing on digital devices. According to Jeff Taylor, M.D., Medical Director for YourSightMatters.com, this includes blurred vision, headaches, sore eyes, headaches, muscle strain and dry eye.
The expert mentioned: “Normally, we blink about 15 times per minute, but this rate decreases by half when we are staring at our smartphone. As we squint to read these miniature screens, our facial, neck and shoulder muscles tighten, eyes become fatigued and vision can be blurred or strained.”
That being said, digital reading is said to hinder child development as well, particularly the little one’s linguistic development. Researchers have found that children ages 3 to 5 exhibit lower reading comprehension when their parents read to them from an electronic book, compared to those whose parents read traditional books. This is because what education researchers call “dialogic reading” – a back-and-forth discussion of the story and its relation to the child’s life – has been taken away.
Pediatrician Dr Pamela High mentioned during her interview with The New York Times: “There’s a lot of interaction when you’re reading a book with your child. You’re turning pages, pointing at pictures, talking about the story. Those things are lost somewhat when you’re using an e-book.”
2. Spend more time in the great outdoors
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, two nutrients that help keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. If a child lacks Vitamin D in his/her system, it can lead to bone deformities such as rickets, a condition that causes bone pain, poor growth and soft, weak bones that can lead to bone deformities. For adults, not enough of Vitamin D in the system will lead to bone pain caused by osteomalacia.
Getting your daily dose of Vitamin D does not cost much as most bodies create vitamin itself from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. Not to mention, being outdoors surrounded by greeneries does counter eyesight deterioration after spending hours looking at your mobile device. The colour green is believed to be the most restful colour tone for the human eye; not only does it improve or reset the strained vision, but it calms you down emotionally.
Kids who are involved in outdoor games are more likely to lead a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle later in their adulthood. They are known to nurture good decision-making abilities, challenge themselves to push their limitations, and become better at risk assessment.
Besides helping improve their gross and motor skills for better agility, outdoor activities like gardening, cycling, swimming and treasure hunting also improve on the child’s social skills. Kids who spend time outdoors and play games with each other tend to interact more effectively with other kids, compared to those holed up indoors and are isolated and withdrawn from other kids their age.
3. Create bonding time at home with board game nights
If you have gotten your daily dose of Vitamin D, and would prefer to stay in for a change, you may consider rounding up the family members for a few rounds of board and card games. They not only help stimulate the brain in analytical thinking, creativity and problem-solving, they also create bonding time for parents and their children.
There may be plenty of games stored in the iPad to keep the young ones entertained and occupied, but there are many more games off-screen that can do the same, as well as getting the parents involved in play time with their children.
Board games like Snakes ‘n’ Ladders, Monopoly, Othello and Chess are more of a two-way street, as they help parents understand their children’s social skills. On the other hand, puzzles are a good unsupervised activity, during times when adult duties call you away from your kid, as his/her curiosity would keep them engaged with the game. It helps in brain development when it comes to spatial reasoning and hand-eye coordination.
When the children are older, parents may engage them in games of Sudoku. Known to arrest the decline of brain function in older people, it challenges the kid to think a few steps ahead of the game. It helps brain development in strategic planning for his/her days to come, and who knows, if you’re real lucky, you might have just nurtured a future chess game genius!
4. Talk to each other face-to-face
When playtime indoors and outdoors are over, when was the last time you had a proper conversation with the people around you? We don’t mean short grunting answers to yes or no questions through FaceTime, but long, heartfelt, face-to-face conversations.
Surveys have shown that 96.5% of Malaysians go online to communicate by text, whereas 85.6% go online for social media visits, where they are likely to have 1.6 times more friends than the global average. According to the 2013 research study by Common Sense Media, children’s access to mobile devices has increased dramatically than it was two years prior, with ownership of tablets among families with young kids age 8 and under jumping from 8% to 40% – that’s a five-fold increase!
Face-to-face communication remains crucial in this technological age, because understanding “nonverbal social cues” – facial expression, eye contact, tone of voice, and less obvious messages of posture and spatial distance between two or more people – is particularly important for social interaction. In-depth studies have shown that “children who better understand emotional cues in a social environment may develop superior social skills and form more positive peer relationships.”
Interpersonal communication also helps promote effective communication in families: from building relationships between the family members; to increasing trust in the family; to understanding one another on things unsaid – you know how Asian families are, and thus eliminating frustration that may lead to potential issues.
5. Have an uninterrupted sleep
It is not a new discovery that lack of sleep is bad for you: from daily fatigue and lethargy that lead to moodiness and increased risk of depression; to impaired brain activity when it comes to concentrating and decision making; to weakened immune system that gives way to more frequent colds and infections, as well as more serious health problems, like stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers.
Healthy adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best, whereas for three- to five-year-olds need an average of eight to 14 hours of sleep, and six- to 13-year-olds, an average of seven to 12 hours of sleep.
In this digital age, we are more prone to postpone our much needed rest when we are so caught up with what social media has to offer; getting a good night’s rest may seem less important when, at the heat of the moment, you’re down the rabbit hole of funny cat videos you can’t wait to reshare on Facebook and Twitter.
There are 25 million social media users in Malaysia (78% of total population), 24 million of which access the platforms via mobile (74% of total population), many if not all of which we are sure spend time on Youtube, Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram – four of the most active social media platforms in Malaysia, before bedtime.
Experts strongly recommend no screen time for children under the age of two, and less than two hours a day for older children. They also advise to turn off electronic devices at least two hours before bedtime, as the blue light emitted from our mobile screen, especially when viewed in the dark, can decrease levels of melatonin and make it harder to fall asleep, while causing headaches and dizziness when reading on screen.
Digital Wellness. A concept initially envisioned by healthcare experts, digital wellness is now on the lips of the world’s biggest tech players. But is it merely a buzzword, or does it seek to address a real growing problem in our tech-based society?
With each and every day, we’re being connected to one another at unprecedented rates.
Businesses are using technology to streamline operations and boost bottom lines. Overseas travellers can switch on FaceTime to talk to loved ones at home face-to-face. Students no longer need to lug around backbreaking backpacks; they can use a tablet to link up to perhaps the best encyclopaedia we have right now: the internet.
But too much of a good thing can be bad for you. In the case of technology (particularly the internet), experts and policymakers are concerned that they’re causing behavioural shifts on a global scale – referring what’s being dubbed as ‘tech addiction’.
Enter the concept of ‘Digital Wellness’. It is a global movement designed to strike a balance between technology and personal well-being. Simultaneously, it seeks to establish a holistic and unified approach to responsible internet consumption.
Our Insatiable Appetite for Connectivity
Now’s a good time to be alive. Today’s technology has liberated us and is empowering us to lead lives we previously would’ve never thought possible. More than half of the world is connected to the internet and smartphone usage is on a constant rise. It’s much easier for nearly everyone around the world to link up and consume content online.
But there’s a dark side to this consumption.
Online platforms – be they social networks, e-commerce sites or games – today are using persuasive and motivational techniques to bait its users. According to the World Health Organisation, these include:
a snap or status is only temporarily available; encouraging one to get online quickly
thousands of users retweeted or shared an article, so you should go online and read it
news feeds are designed to filter and display content based on one’s interest. This often leads to the creation of ‘echo chambers’; and
inviting more friends to a network to get extra points. It becomes harder for a person or their friends to leave once integrated into the network.
Do these tactics sound familiar to you? We spend enough of our waking hours using our devices whether for work or play. Apart from encouraging us to keep up-to-date (for fear of losing out in this faced-past internet age), such techniques tap into our innate desire to socialise. We’re just getting more used to doing it via our screens than in person.
With Great Wi-Fi Comes Great Responsibility
There’s nothing innately negative about using more of the internet in our daily routines. As with everything else, moderation is key. Using the internet more frequently but without responsibility not only makes us susceptible to be fired up by unverified news, it can also make us compulsive in our pursuit of updates.
For today’s baby boomers (and even millennials), we still remember a time when the internet isn’t as ubiquitous in everything as it is today. This isn’t the case with Generation Z; their youth and formative years have been shaped by the internet.
With the looming risk fostered by hyper-connectivity, even the world’s tech giants are worried that today’s tech is making us lose touch with reality.
On one hand, Apple recently announced controls that allow iOS users to monitor the time they spent on devices; as well as setting time limits on app use, controlling the level of distractions from notifications, and regulate children’s’ device usage.
On the other, Google is adding features to the Android OS the help users keep their smartphone usage in check. This includes a dashboard showing people just how much they’re spending time on devices and apps. The company is also introducing a ‘wind down mode’ – which is effectively a ‘do not disturb’ function that greys out the phone in the evening to prevent pre-bedtime distractions.
These efforts are good and show that technology’s come a long way, but they’re relying on devices to automatically keep our habits under control. It’s important to remember that they’re just tools which we can use.
What, then, can we do to raise our own agency in using technology responsibly?
We’re letting technology tell us what to do, instead of the other way around. We’re being tethering to our devices and social media networks to the point that withdrawal may even cause anxiety, panic and even depression.
But like our computers, our brain needs to rest its processing power. It also needs a regular clearing-up of cache and junk data to operate smoothly.
Part of the popularity of digital wellness today is the trend of undergoing ‘digital detoxification’. While tech developers are creating more tools to help balance our device usage, the onus is really on us to control our connectivity.
This can be as simple as stashing your phone in your desk or bag or creating rules for yourself to not use it during mealtimes (as itchy as it may be for the foodie in you to not post your dish in Instagram). In this case, leaving your devices out of sight, out of mind can be beneficial.
And this detox doesn’t even need to take long. Even three days can help one lower their stress level and reliance on technology. What’s key is that one takes enough time away from their screens to begin appreciating the importance of balancing digital life with real life.
Conclusion: Taking Back Control of Technology
The internet has been one of the greatest socio-economic enablers over the past century and is showing no signs of slowing down.
But we humans are analogue creatures, not digital ones. There’s only so much information that we can take it at a time, and therefore it’s important to keep ourselves in check when it comes to using technology.
By establishing healthy guidelines and boundaries on our relationship with technology, digital wellness is for us to remind us humans that we’re the internet’s masters; not vice versa.