How parents’ internet addiction can fuel their childr…

Teens are often accused of being addicted to their mobile devices, but new research shows they’re often just mimicking their parents’ behavior.

Of course, we all use digital devices for work, fun, and socializing — but too much screen time can be harmful. There is such a thing as “digital addiction”, which is characterized by an excessive and obsessive attachment to technology that is associated with harm to users and those around them.

Parents are often seen as part of the solution when it comes to their children’s technology addiction. However, in my team’s recent study, we found that parents may be part of the problem. 168 parents of adolescents living in Qatar took part in the study.

We investigated whether there is a correlation between the intensity of Internet addiction among parents and their children. Parents answered one questionnaire about themselves and a second about their teenage children.

The results showed a direct connection: the more dependent the parents, the stronger the compulsions of their children. Leading by example is a powerful form of parenting. The way parents use technology is no exception.

There are ways to address the problem. We analyzed the first parent survey and conducted further research, including a questionnaire with over 500 youth and interviews with 44 parents, 42 youth and 13 health and education professionals in Qatar, to better understand the issue and obtain best practice guidelines.

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1. Focus on the bond

An effective approach to parenting digital addiction is to strengthen the connection with your child. While it may sound simple, our results showed that low levels of emotional engagement in both authoritarian (eg, turning off Wi-Fi) and indulgent parenting styles exacerbated digital addiction in their children.

Almost all (94%) of the parents in our study had either an aggressive, assertive, or indulgent digital parenting style. But most of their youth were either at risk or already addicted to technology.

Internet addiction increased among adolescents who did not have a warm relationship with their parents. Instead, family cohesion and low levels of conflict were associated with low scores for Internet addiction among children. Planning fun activities as a family gives teens something worthwhile to fill their time with and increases their sense of social support.

2. Let’s talk about it

Setting limits on when teens can use the Internet, penalties for breaking the rules, and rewards for reducing technology use is not in itself a working strategy. What was clear is the value of having a meaningful dialogue with your child about how to manage screen time and online activities.

They need to understand the issues underlying their addiction. Build on what you have learned from listening to your child. Once you’ve agreed on a goal, stick with it. Setting goals and limits, incentive schemes and regular technology reviews have worked in combination with constructive discussions.

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Image: Kojo Kwarteng for Unsplash

3. Self-discipline

Our results suggest that there was no decrease in addiction levels regardless of the frequency of parental monitoring. Change can only happen if the child is ready for it. Low levels of self-control are linked to internet addiction in children and adults alike.

A sense of ownership and commitment makes teens feel in control and more willing to take action. Allow teens to set limits on their digital usage (e.g. how much time they spend on a device and which mobile apps to delete).

4. Turn the tables

When children teach others about a subject, they are more likely to change their own behavior. Let young people guide you in creating a plan for your own internet use. Work with your children to build trust and shared responsibility.

For example, if you decide to create a weekly schedule to track your family’s internet usage, add a column for yourself. This approach shows the commitment of both sides to solve the problem. Being a role model is essential to teenage success.

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5. Don’t just rely on parental control tools

The level of digital addiction we are seeing among adolescents suggests that parental software control is not working. A 2017 study found that 22% of teenage participants used the internet excessively.

The tools are limited in what they can do. You are missing important features such as B. the group limit setting.

The word “control” has negative connotations, especially in the minds of youngsters: something to mess around with rather than work with. People feel threatened in their freedom.

Digital addiction is linked to a variety of negative life experiences, such as lower grades on exams and job loss. But a good, old-fashioned family bond might be the solution.

This is a collaborative project that brought together researchers from four Qatar Foundation member institutes: Doha International Family Institute (DIFI), World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), Word Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) and Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU). DM/ML

This story was first published in The conversation. Raian Ali is Professor at HBKU Qatar and Visiting Professor at Bournemouth University.

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