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Internet Addiction In Children — Knowing The Risks And Consequences Helps Protect Your Child

Dr Debarati Halder Dr Debarati Halder 4 Mins Read

Dr Debarati Halder Dr Debarati Halder


Is it difficult to take your child away from the phone or the computer screen? Is he always texting or downloading something? He may be addicted to the Net. We tell you how to deal with it.

Internet Addiction In Children — Knowing The Risks And Consequences Helps Protect Your Child

The use of the Internet can have a positive as well as a negative impact on children. The benefits of using online tools are many —they make a child more creative, motivate him to be a good learner, and encourage him to be a good researcher. However, the negative aspects of using the Net often outweigh its benefits. One of the main problems is Internet addiction among children. Child internet addicts are often initially allured by online games. However, they may eventually be exposed to unwanted or obscene content on the Net or even commit a cybercrime.

Here are some of the reasons for Internet addiction in children:

  1. Constant urge to search for new games
  2. Obsessive desire to download various apps
  3. Frantic need to stay connected with friends through digital communication apps
  4. Curiosity to explore the amazing world of the Internet by themselves
  5. Imitating adults who are always busy on the phone
  6. Obsession with taking and posting selfies

Harmful effects of Internet addiction on children

Internet addiction not only affects your child's behavior but could also get him into trouble with the law if not checked at the right time. Like drug addiction, with Internet addiction, children also start showing symptoms of behavior disorders when they are forbidden access to their devices and the Net.

Here are some ways online addiction could affect your child:

Exposure to inappropriate content: Your child may not only be exposed to unwanted content but may also get trapped by becoming a contributor and a consumer of obscene content like pornography, or get hooked to violent content.

Sharing of personal information and pictures: If your child is addicted to uploading pictures on the Net, in doing so she may accidentally violate someone's privacy. She may have accessed inappropriate personal pictures through your phone or social media profiles. Also, children may be asked by agents to click on inappropriate pictures. These agents indulge in unethical practices such as uploading 'voyeuristic' pictures of women and children. Children who 'supply' these pictures unknowingly may also be hooked to the Internet to see where their pictures have been uploaded and how big a 'fan following' they have.

Exposure to violent content: A child addicted to playing violent games on the internet may be tempted to create or post violent content online. This may cause her to behave rudely or violently, and may even turn her into a bully.

Legal implications: Parents also need to understand that their child's Internet addiction runs the risk of getting into legal issues. Under the various provisions in the Information Technology Act, POCSO Act, Indian Penal code, etc., children can be booked and punished with a minimum jail term of two to three years, for committing the following offenses:

  • sending or publishing offensive content
  • posting pictures of individuals, especially women and children without their consent
  • sending repeated messages to people
  • playing the role of proxy stalkers
  • aiding main stalkers (who may be adults as well)
  • hatching plans for violent activities including kidnapping, threatening to leak private data, sextortion, hacking, etc.

For offenders between 16 and 17 years of age, the law may not consider their level of maturity or their gender when imposing strict punishment, especially if they have been part of heinous crimes.  The punishment in such cases may be heavier and they may be treated like adult offenders.

So, what are the effective ways of handling Internet addiction in children? Here are five important tips:

Tips to deal with Internet addiction in your child

  1. Do not use gadgets as 'pacifiers'. You never know which site your child may open and be exposed to unwanted content.
  2. Do not allow your child to use your social profiles to connect with 'friends'. Also, restrict your child from having his own online profile until he is mature enough to understand the pros and cons of using the Internet.
  3. Monitor your child's habit of clicking random pictures of known and unknown people. She must be made to understand and respect a person's right to privacy.
  4. Do not allow your child to download games or apps without your permission, even if they are free of cost. The games or apps may have inappropriate content for his age.
  5. Do not give in to your child's demand to use the Internet whenever she wants. If she is restless, find out the reason for the same and talk to her. Parents need to understand that either their child may want to escape the tension related to studies or exams by surfing the Net, or she may have experienced some sort of victimization for oversharing personal information and is anxious about what the perpetrator might reveal.

If parents set a good example by restricting their own gadgets and internet usage children may learn to follow their parents. Keep your child safe by regulating and monitoring internet usage at home. Model the behavior you want to see in your child.

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