Responding to Excessive Use

It’s tempting for parents to act authoritatively and lay down the law on the number of hours their kids can spend on the computer. But in order to effectively address excessive use, there needs to be an active, voluntary commitment on the part of the young person to control their behaviour. Otherwise, kids will just find ways to work around their parents – and be left to their own devices once they’re old enough to leave the house.

  • Parents need to speak with their kids to make them aware of the problem. Suggest they keep a journal and write down the number of hours spent on the computer each day.
  • If the young person has agreed there’s a problem (and that’s the most important step), you need to work together to put a program in place to help them to break the habit. This could include gradually reducing the number of hours spent on the computer, and increasing the number of hours spent on sports and other activities.
  • Examine your own online habits because as a parent, you are the most important role model for your children. On average, Canadian adults spend 19 hours a week online compared to 13 hours spent by children.
  • Keep Internet-connected computers out of your kids’ bedrooms. Research shows that young people who have an Internet-connected computer of their own spend twice as much time online as those who share a connection with other family members.
  • Investigate software that monitors and restricts Internet use. Although these tools are helpful, keep in mind they can be easily disabled by a savvy computer user. Your ultimate goal should be helping your kids to develop self-control, discipline and accountability with the Internet.
  • If your child’s behaviour cannot be controlled and it is seriously impacting on other parts of their life, consider seeking professional counselling. Compulsive Internet use may be symptomatic of other problems such as depression, anger and low self-esteem.