1 in 5 U.S. parents worry their teens may be addicted to the internet

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The study helps understand the context that contributes to some of the negative aspects of teen Internet use, including certain parenting styles and parents' own Internet use, Salum said.
The study helps understand the context that contributes to some of the negative aspects of teen Internet use, including certain parenting styles and parents' own Internet use, Salum said.

(HealthDay News) -- American parents fear that the use of Internet of their adolescents may expose them to cyber bullyingharmful content and predispose them to addiction, a new study shows. A survey of about 1,000 mothers and fathers found that more than 22% were worried that their children might become dependent on the Internet.

Twice as many of them were worried about the addiction to Internet than due to dependence on substances such as drugs or alcohol. There are reasons for parents to be concerned, said Mitchell Prinstein, the chief scientific officer of the American Psychological Association (APA). Some data have shown that about 50% of children report at least one symptom of substance dependence. social networkssaid Prinstein, who was not involved in the new research.

The new survey, conducted by researchers from the Child Mind Institute in New York City and others, highlights the feelings of parents as they navigate teens and technology. While some worry about the addiction to InternetMany also say that Internet It has brought the immediate and extended family closer together.

Study co-author Dr. Giovanni Salum, a program director for the institute, said there is a general perception that mental health disorders are increasing over time. The evidence suggests that the use of Internet and the social networks they can contribute to that. “What's interesting about this study, though, is that it looks at both extremes: the benefits and the harms,” Salum said, citing the family connection as a really positive aspect.

The survey showed that almost two-thirds of parents were concerned about harmful content on Internet and 53% for the cyber bullying. However, almost half appreciated the improved connection between immediate family members and about 57% appreciated it for extended families.

In terms of addictionhe Internet It appeals to the brain's reward system, Salum said. If he Internet It's just a small part of a person's life, that's okay, he noted. But if it interferes with relationships and school, then it's cause for concern. “There are many benefits. The main thing I think we still need to understand is exactly what the balance is,” Salum said. Surveys were completed online in June and July 2022 among parents of children ages 9 to 15.

The use of Internet included web browsing, email and other messaging, mobile phones, connected handheld game consoles, digital media, video streaming, and television Internet. Most parents felt confident about measuring the duration of screen time and had strategies to manage screen time with healthy alternatives.

The APA published a health advisory in the spring with recommendations for social media use in teens and preteens.
The APA published a health advisory in the spring with recommendations for social media use in teens and preteens.

More than 7 in 10 thought their children could use Internet responsibly and more than 80% reported that they could talk about the use of the Internet with their children and adolescents. Parenting style seemed to have an impact on the scores of addiction to Internet of the kids. The researchers found associations between those scores and inconsistent discipline, as well as co-parent perception.

The study helps to understand the context that contributes to some of the negative aspects of the use of Internet in adolescents, including certain parenting styles and the use of Internet from the parents, Salum said. It will be important to understand all this better, he added. “We need investments in research to understand exactly the benefits and harms because this is part of our lives,” Salum said.

Other research has shown that children encounter negative content online, Prinstein said. “Many children are being exposed to cyber hate, whether it is online discrimination or cyber bullyingPrinstein said. “We are finding that many children are being exposed to harmful content that teaches them to engage in maladaptive behaviors, such as self-harm or anorexia.” Tech companies need to take steps to prevent some of these problems, Prinstein said.

He also said parental controls need to be simplified. Active supervision by parents is also important, he advised. That doesn't mean looking over your kids' shoulders, but it does mean asking questions. Ask your children what they are doing at Internet.

I asked for, "Why is it so important to you?? ANDwhat are you watching? ¿How are you interpreting what you see??” Prinstein said. “Really be the number one resource for kids when they see things online,” Prinstein said. Taking some family vacations from screens together can also be helpful, so kids see that even if it's hard, their parents are working on it too.

While parents often focus on how much time their children spend online, Prinstein suggested that what they are doing online Internet could be more important. Watching videos on TikTok with negative content is different from reading the news or texting with friends, she said.

“The question for many parents is, 'What am I doing to make sure their time is quality time instead of just how much time?'” Prinstein said. “Are you connecting with friends? Are relationships improving with people who really are who they say they are?” she said. “Or are they just falling into a hole without realizing how much time they have spent online and then feeling regret, remorse and exhaustion?” Prinstein added. “Monitoring that is really important,” she said.

The APA published a health advisory in the spring with Recommendations for the use of social networks in adolescents and preadolescents. The mental health organization compared social media training to getting a driver's license, with the value of learning the rules of the road. The results of the study were published online on October 26 in JAMA Network Open.

More information: Nemours TeensHealth has more information on online safety for teens.

SOURCES: Giovanni Salum, MD, PhD, program director, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Initiative in Greece, Child Mind Institute, New York City; Mitchell Prinstein, PhD, scientific director, American Psychological Association; JAMA Network Open, October 26, 2023, online.

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