What can parents do to manage their kids’ internet habits? A new Hong Kong study reveals how parents can curb children’s time online while building and maintaining healthy family relationships.
Parents who set consistent and clear limits on their children’s internet use are more effective in limiting their time online than those who are excessively strict, a new Hong Kong study has revealed.
According to a study conducted with 1,600 families from Shanghai by a research team at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, “authoritative” parenting—which was practiced by 40 percent of the parents—offered preferable results in curbing increasing internet use among kids.
Professor Wong Yu-cheung, a leader on the project, explained that authoritative parenting involves setting clear rules and consistent limits for kids. However, it also emphasises autonomy and the discussion of issues like internet use together.
While the Chinese media often highlights militant “boot camps” as a sought-after solution to internet addiction, Wong points out that this “authoritarian” approach to internet misuse can damage parent-child relationships. At worst, it can encourage violent behaviour from the kids in question.
Is Your Child Spending Too Much Time Online?
When a child or adult’s need to be on the internet—through instant messaging, social media, or gaming—causes negative physical and emotional changes, it can be classified as internet addiction. It shows up in brain scans much like other behavioural addictions: the reward centre of the brain lights up when the person thinks about being online. A number of negative consequences are linked to internet addiction among youth, including disturbed sleep, bad posture, anxiety and depression, and an overall decrease in productivity at school.
Is your child or loved one spending too much time online? There are warning signs to look out for:
- They get irritable or moody when you try to reduce the time they spend online
- Their sleep patterns are irregular or disrupted because of how they use the internet
- They spend time with online friends rather than “real life” friends
- They get anxious about running out of battery on their smartphone or losing access to their network or Wi-Fi
- Their weight fluctuates and their nutrition is poor because of unhealthy eating habits due to time online
When It Comes to Internet Use, What Does Healthy Parenting Look Like?
Cooperation, consistency, and communication are key in parenting authoritatively around internet usage. Professor Wong Yu-cheung has some key recommendations for setting realistic standards:
- Set limits on internet time—and regularly enforce them
- Engage in dialogue with your kids about how to use the internet responsibly
- Ask kids to find practical information for you online, to show them that you respect their ability to use the web
- Play games and watch movies together—use your time online as a family, rather than as something that isolates you
What Help Is Available—for Parents and Children?
Professionals can also help you press the reset button on your family’s internet usage. The Cabin Hong Kong’s six or 12-week English-language outpatient treatment programme is designed to treat a range of addictions, including addiction to the internet, where totally abstaining from the problematic behaviour is not realistic or possible.
The Edge—a revolutionary treatment programme for young men aged 16-24—is run by The Cabin Addiction Services Group in Chiang Mai, Thailand—just a 3-hour flight away. It provides an inpatient option for teens complete with intense physical fitness training and outdoor adventure learning.
Get in touch with The Cabin to see how we can support you in creating a more healthy relationship with technology in your home: call us today for a confidential conversation about your concerns.