While the computer is an incredibly useful tool and can help you get a lot done, wasting time on it seems to be all too easy. Lots of kids have problems with spending too much time on the computer, to the dismay of some parents. Computer addiction, especially to such features like games or instant messaging, has been described as being just as powerful as a drug addiction, and while your child may not be to that point, their excessive computer usage could lead to more serious problems down the road.Note that the steps involving software (such as keyloggers or web history checking) can very easily be circumvented.
1. Talk with your child about his/her excessive computer usage. Find out if there are any specific reasons that he/she spends so much time on the computer – sometimes the computer functions as an escape from reality. If your child is facing problems that are causing a desire to “escape”, try and address those.
2. Move the computer to an open area if it’s not already in one – sometimes taking it out of the child’s bedroom is sufficient to reduce their computer usage, and it makes it easier to monitor their usage.
- (However, sometimes bedrooms may just be temporary whilst rooms are being rearranged, so this is not always so.)
4. Find out how bad your child’s addiction is, and what exactly your child is addicted to – does your child spend most of his/her computer time playing games, chatting online, or just browsing the Web?
5. * If he/she is addicted to learning information, as long as it is legal, safe and decent, then that should not be an issue. Using the Internet for education, rather than chatrooms/gaming, is a great use. Programming sites are a useful class of site, and provide a skill that is good to learn, plus they teach a skill which will be beneficial. If your child is addicted to learning information, then that is benign, and useful to his/her education. Praise them for that. If they must use chatrooms, use educational ones where the emphasis is on learning a skill, not socialising, as these are less biased towards whoand more about at, when and why (The 5 W’s – Who What Where When Why?)
6. Some children go through phases where they like chat room sites, then decide it is no longer of interest, and move on to more educational-related sites, e.g. computer programming, history, cookery etc. These will not cause worry in most cases.
7. Set a time limit on the amount of time your child can spend on the computer each day. In reality, though, time limits seldom work due to the stress of modern life. As a child gets older, they work it out for themselves, in most cases.
- First, tell your child his time limit and see if he’s able to stick to the limit himself. This will not work, realistically.
- If he can’t control his time on the computer on his own (which, if his addiction is serious, will likely be the case), start using a timer. Once the timer goes off, your child has to get off the computer. However, some children may discover for themselves that an activity can get tedious after a while; computing is no different.
- Set a time limit on the amount of time for yourself in order to be a good role model. If your kids see you following your own rules, then they will be more likely to follow.
9. Keylogger use is questionable at best, if only due to concerns about privacy forother individuals and guests who use the computer, so really, don’t use one (since tech-savvy individuals and guests can and sometimes do uninstall them. Also, they are considered a privacy infringement. Read Issues For the Nineties:Privacy and its follow-up Issues: Privacy Rights by Craig Donnellan for more on this).
10. Buy or download a program that restricts computer use. Parents often find it difficult to enforce time limits because their kids will put up a fight. If necessary, buy software that will enforce time limits or block use. With some of these programs, parents must take explicit action to add time rather than remove or restrict it. This should not be done with older children. In particular, children aged 20+ find this an inconvenience.
11. Replace the time that your child would normally spend on the computer with other activities – play board games with her, take her to the library, get her together with friends to play sports, etc. Addictions are hard to break, and it’s even harder when your child has nothing to do. However, some children are legitimately lonely or do not have social skills, so computer use is a substitute for such social contact.
12. Assign your child extra chores or take away other privileges if she continues to overuse the computer. However, it’s safe to say that overuse of computer can just come to a natural end when the individual decides he gets a boredom factor using it, as with any other activity.
13. If you have more than one computer, you may have to monitor them to make sure that your child is not secretly using them. Look at your Internet’s browsing history to see if there are any websites on there that you’ve never visited (and malware can in many cases be the cause, not an individual. This is hijacking of PCs, a separate topic). You can also install a keylogger, which will record any activity on the computer. Keyloggers however, should not be used, simply for privacy and safety reasons.
- If you take away the power cord to the computer, some good places to put it are in your closet (or other part of your room), your car, or even at work. Be warned, however, that the power cord for most computers is a standard plug, and he or she could probably get one off of the TV or another monitor.
- If your child reveals that there are underlying problems that are driving him to use the computer as a reality escape, don’t dismiss it as a play for sympathy. Your child may be facing genuinely serious issues at school (e.g. depression, lack of friends, only goes there and enjoys coursework but not social side), work (if he is old enough to hold a job), or even at home that are causing him emotional distress.
- Take note that Internet history can be cleared. The most obvious method is completely emptying the history. However, this may be done for disk-space saving reasons, not privacy, so don’t assume the worst. Some deletion utilities make it impossible to retrieve this file, known as index.dat on Internet explorer.
- If you have a keylogger, those can be turned off as well. If you are looking through it, see if there are any big time gaps – that’s a warning sign that your child is turning the logger off. However, it can often be due to program failures, since some keyloggers are installed by non-technical experts. Also, keyloggers are prone to installing additional adware and malware on the system.
- (Keep in mind that he may not have done it to be sneaky – keyloggers can sometimes cause a computer to run slowly, and he may have just wanted to keep the virtual memory free while playing a game.)
- Realistically, keyloggers are not useful except to employers and business-related utilities; in most cases a keylogger is an infringement of privacy. The basic maxim for parents – don’t use one, and if one comes equipped – uninstall it.
- Remember that it is very important to fill your child’s time with other activities. You can’t just forbid her to use the computer and then not give her anything else to do. Some children use the computer if there is nothing else to do in inclement weather – and it is a fairly reasonable expectation to think this.
- Every child requires different methods to break computer addiction – some may only need time limits, while others might need harsher discipline before they are able to break their bad habit. Harsher discipline should ONLY ever be used for cases where people are deliberately bullying etc. not for normal addiction of computers (advice from C.Jameson, computer addiciton expert, Uk)
- Some children may not have good social skills or be good at interacting with people. This does NOT make it an addiction, contrary to popular belief.
- Remember, privacy is important. The golden rule maxim applies here.
- The golden rule is “do not do to others what you would not like to be done to you” – and unless there are threats of harm, suicide, bullying etc. respect privacy.
- Don’t let your child replace all of his computer time by watching TV or playing video games – addictions to these types of entertainment can be formed, too. However, TV addiction can be considered “benign”.
- Your child might react with anger when you take steps to break her addiction – be prepared to deal with temper tantrums.
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