The Child Mind Institute’s new Children’s Mental Health Report shows that teenagers are now using screens more than before. Up to 10% of adolescents were also found to have problematic internet use or internet use that has become extreme enough to interfere with daily life. (Read more about the report here.)
7 signs of problematic internet use in children and adolescents
Now that the internet has become part of everyday life, it seems many kids can’t seem to get themselves away from their phones. Below, learn more about some possible symptoms of problematic internet use in kids.
Anger or agitation when online time is interrupted
Webroot points out that a child who appears addicted to the internet will feel “threatened” at the mere thought of reducing the time she gets to spend online. For example, if your child throws a fit or becomes angry every time you ask her to put her phone down for a moment, it’s a possible sign that she is dealing with problematic internet use.
Feeling anxious or depressed when offline
In addition to being angry when you ask her to do something other than stay online, your child might also become irritable, moody, or anxious when she is away from her smartphone or computer. This can also lead to her being preoccupied with when she can go back online.
Lack of interest in other activities
Problematic internet use can also be signified by a child’s lack of interest in activities she used to enjoy doing before, like hanging out with friends or family and other hobbies that don’t involve being online. She might even prefer being online over interacting with people face-to-face.
Disrupted sleep patterns
Dr. Harold Koplewicz, M.D., President of the Child Mind Institute, says that sleep patterns are a telling sign of problematic internet use in children and adolescents. One indicator to look out for is if your child has trouble falling asleep or intentionally loses sleep just to spend some time online.
Checking her phone multiple times a day
Some people might not have an issue with keeping their phones muted for a while, but those who deal with problematic internet use might struggle with not checking their gadgets constantly to see what notifications they’re getting, whether they come from social media or new text messages.
Spending time online instead of doing homework or chores
Some extreme effects of excessive internet use can be poor school performance and neglect of other responsibilities, like household chores. If you always find your child on her phone when she’s supposed to be studying or finishing her chores, there might be a problem.
Disobedience of internet time limits
Another distinct sign of problematic internet use in kids is the constant inability to keep track of the time they spend online or stick to the time limitations parents have set at home. Dr. Koplewicz tells WebMD that if your child spends more than three hours on her phone per day, it might be time to intervene.
Need ideas on how to manage your child's screen use? Click here.