As someone with a love of the printed book, I often lament this generation’s lack of interest in thoughtful reading. Indeed, many of us seem to have traded a bookmark for a mouse. Knowledge of world events, politics, religion, you name it, seems to be lacking in the mental repository of teens today. But it appears that may not be the only effect of the internet on young people. A recent study is one of several connecting heavy internet use with the development of depression in youth. How much it too much? I leave that up to you as a parent to decide. The study found that at 5 hours or more per day, there was a significant effect, although the authors were not able to say that internet use itself caused depression. In fact, there was some speculation that it could be a lack of sleep among those who spend so much of their free time on the internet.
When we discovered that our then high schooler was Instant Messaging (today, it would probably be texting) into the wee hours of the morning with friends, we pondered what we could do. We did not allow a computer in the bedroom, but this child was going down to the family room late at night when we were asleep. We weren’t fond of the idea of policing the house late at night when we’d rather be sleeping, so we found a fairly simple solution. Our house has wireless internet, and we put the internet router, which is in our bedroom, on a simple timer! Then we informed our children that homework better be done by 11:00, because that’s when the internet went off for the night.
If you are troubled by the amount of time your teen spends online, whether on social network sites, gaming, or even watching TV reruns, you may have to come up with a creative solution like we did. But after all these years as a parent, I believe that you can figure out a way to channel your child’s time into a healthy range of broader pursuits. Let’s prove that we parents are smarter than they think!