I just received this from the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families and thought I would share it.
From an article by Luke Gilkerson of Covenant Eyes, an Internet filtering and accountability product for families and organizations:
So how can you, as a parent, know if your child is developing an Internet addiction?
Have you noticed an increased amount of time on the computer? Does your child seem to crave more and more time online?
Is there an air of privacy around Internet use? Maybe you've walked in on your teen with the computer screen turned away from the door. When you come close to the computer, do you notice your teen quickly shifting what is visible on the screen? Do they shut off the computer or screen altogether? Do you often find the door to the computer room locked?
Are they defensive and protective about their time online? Maybe you've confronted them about the amount of time they spend online and have been met with anger or frustration.
Are they neglecting time with family, chores, or school work?
Have you noticed personality changes? Do they seem irritable until they get online? Do they seem to have a sense of "well-being" while on the computer? Do they seem restless, moody, or depressed if their Internet use is cut short? Internet addictions have a way of engulfing someone emotionally.
Is there a change in sleep patterns? Have you ever caught your teen on the computer late at night or early in the morning? Often the largest bulk of free time to use the Internet is at night.
Have you noticed physical symptoms such as dry eyes, migraine headaches, backaches, eating irregularities (skipping meals), neglecting personal hygiene, etc.? These can be signs of too much time spent at the computer.
Where do you start if you think your child has a problem? While these are all possible indicators of an Internet addiction, in the end the best way to know if your child has developed an addiction is to engage in open and honest communication with your teen. As one expert writes, "A warm and communicative parent-child relationship is the most important nontechnical means that parents can use to deal with the challenges of the sexualized media environment" (Patricia M. Greenfield, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology).
Be practical about avoiding Internet addiction. Keep the lines of communication open about the expectation of Internet use. Set guidelines early and stick to them. Put the computer in a more central and open location so you can more easily monitor how it is used. Teach responsible online behavior: show your children the great benefits of the Internet while showing them how to balance their time—online and off-line.