Our 16-year-old son has been spending an increasing number of hours a day on the computer. He plays for extending periods of time, spends less time with friends and gets upset when we limit him. Should we be concerned and what can we do?
You have good reason to be concerned. Most parents have absolutely no idea of the ways that the internet is influencing, impacting and overtaking our lives and the lives of our children. For good and for bad, digital technology is changing how we think and how we relate in us in ways we never imagined.
Even as far back as 1995 research showed that marriages, parent-child relationships and close friendships were being disrupted by excessive use of the Internet with dependents gradually spending less time with real people in exchange for solitary time in front of a computer.
Research tells us that the more young adults play video games, the more frequent their involvement in at-risk behaviors like drinking and drug abuse. Another study found that people struggling with video game addiction may be at higher risk for depression, loneliness, social anxiety and anger.
In their groundbreaking book, The Digital Invasion, Drs Sylvia Frejd and Archibald Hart note that “with just one click of a key on a smartphone, iPad or laptop, you can access a source of pleasure that is so powerful it can create any number of addictions now being linked to the cyberworld.” They are referred to as “Internet Addiction Disorders” (IAD).
What can you do? Start by educating yourself about the problem. Talk with other parents and the youth leaders at your church. They can be a gold mine of information to help you better understand the problem.
Then talk with your son. Share what you have learned, the legitimate reasons for your concerns and what steps need to be taken to insure that the computer be a constructive rather than destructive influence in his life and the life of your family.
Also, and this is critical, find new and creative ways to be with him. When he does talk, what does he talk about? What makes him laugh? What helps him to relax? What kinds of encouragement does he respond to? What are some activities that he has enjoyed in the past that he might once again want to engage in?
You’ve probably spent a lot of time praying for your son and for wisdom in raising him. Enlist two or three other couples to daily pray for him and volunteer to pray for their kids on a daily basis. Also talk with other parents about their child’s use of video games and how they have dealt with it.
Know that you are asking the right questions at the right time. Know that you aren’t alone, that many are on the same road as you, and that there are things you can do that over time and with patience and prayer will make a difference in the life of your son.