(Adapted from Presence Family Magazine, October 2010, Issue 1)

By: Presence Editing Team

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the problem of internet addiction especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also laid out the signs of internet addiction and its causes so parents could assess whether they and/or their children are becoming internet addicts. Today in Part 2 we will look at the physical symptoms of internet addiction and how to protect our kids from developing these problems.

What are the Immediate Physical Effects of Internet Addiction?

Teenagers are generally not concerned about their health. At their young age, they feel invincible and immune to illnesses. Dr. David Phan, a chiropractic doctor, reminds us that if teenagers spend hours in front of the computer, they will soon develop symptoms that result from prolonged sitting, such as: 

* Poor Posture

* Neck Pain

* Back Pain

* Muscle weakness 

* Lack of muscle tone

* Lack of bone strength

* Lack of coordination

* Lack of E.Q. (Emotional Quotient)

* Early onset of degeneration of thumbs and fingers joints

Physical activity is vital in the development of a teenager’s growing body. The bones and muscles need constant stimulation and stress to grow properly and reach their full potential.

There is also a direct relationship between internet addiction and monitor addiction. Monitor addiction occurs when one fixates their mind and body to the point that he/she is oblivious to everything and everyone around him/her. Today, we see many teenagers lacking the social skills and ability to relate to people effectively because of their increased monitor use, and the obvious isolation and alienation that results from that habit.

Physical inactivity can also lead to serious health issues. But since these effects are not immediately noticeable, teenagers are not scared by these warnings. However, parents need to be aware of silent killers such as: 

* Heart disease 

* Obesity 

* High blood pressure

* Type 2 diabetes

* Osteoporosis 

* Stroke

* Depression

* Colon cancer

* Premature death

How to Prevent Internet Addiction?

Dr. Melvin Wong emphasizes that building a truly healthy and intimate relationship between parents and children is of utmost importance. When parents accept their children regardless of their performance, children become less likely to seek acceptance from their peers and others through the internet. Encouraging children when they fail, and showing care when their child is sick or in need, forms a loving bond and trust between parents and children. Even just trying to understand a child instead of nagging them can make a big difference. Maintaining a healthy marriage is also important. When parents fight, children tend to feel stressed and avoid such situations by turning to the internet. 

Dr. Phan suggests that when children are young, it is important for parents to play with their children. They need to keep their children active and plan for activities such as basketball, tennis, or hiking. The best way to keep children away from the computer is to provide fun and creative alternatives. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has limited our choices in some physical activities such as participation in team sports, indoor gym classes and playground play, families can still get outside with their kids for a variety of activities. More than ever, parents need to play with and get outside with their kids since children today are not as free to play together with peers as they were in the past. 

Overall, internet addiction is a very complicated issue. We recommend seeking professional help for more assistance and treatment if needed.

Although the task to overcome the modern problem of internet addiction in our families can seem overwhelming, God’s Word still rings true: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). Whether we are tempted to escape problems at home through internet use or are struggling to accept and spend time with our children as they are, Christ understands our struggles and wants to help us in our times of need. 

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