How can I help my son spend less time on the internet?
anonymous Asks ...
My son is a 25 year old software engineer who works for a very well known company from the comfort of his own bedroom – his childhood bedroom actually. He makes a lot of money but prefers to work at home and rarely goes out to socialize with anyone offline. I do not mind having him at home and he contributes more than his fair share to the bills (he can certainly afford to) but I am worried about him. He probably spends 22 hours a day in his room on an average day. He leaves only occasionally to come down and watch TV with us make a sandwich or whatever. He says he is working all the time. I try to get him to socialize with people but he says he is too busy. He has not had many friends since high school. I don’t know if there is something really wrong with him or not but I know that there is more to life than what he’s got. What can I do to help him?
Penny Bell Says ...
Internet addiction is in the process of being considered by the American Psychiatric Association for inclusion in the DSM-5, due out May 2013. It is described as a compulsive-impulsive spectrum disorder that involves online and/or offline computer usage and consists of at least three subtypes: excessive gaming, sexual preoccupations, and e-mail/text messaging. All of the variants share the following four components: excessive use, often associated with a loss of sense of time or a neglect of basic drives; withdrawal, including feelings of anger, tension, and/or depression when the computer is inaccessible; tolerance, including the need for better computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use; and negative repercussions, including arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation, and fatigue.
Internet use in itself can be productive, informative and fun. But someone who is caught up in internet overuse neglects other areas of life, such as relationships, work, school and leisure pursuits, in favour of spending time on the internet.
As well, work in itself can be productive and financially rewarding, but like the internet, overwork, or “workaholism”, can also lead to neglect of other important aspects of life.
It sounds as if your son’s combined internet overuse and overwork is what is causing him to miss out on experiencing a full and satisfying life.
The internet is easily and freely available, gives instant gratification and provides rewards that are experienced as a “high”. If your son is shy, withdrawn or tends toward escapism, he is more likely to use the internet for relationship rather than the challenges of real life relationships.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy has been used successfully with internet addiction. It focuses on changing patterns of thinking and beliefs that are associated with and trigger anxiety. The basis of cognitive behaviour therapy is that beliefs trigger thoughts, which then trigger feelings and produce behaviours.
Perhaps you could invite your son for a talk about your concerns about him spending so much time in his room whilst neglecting other parts of a balanced life. You could suggest he see a counsellor or psychologist, at least to allay your anxieties and learn for himself whether or not his internet behaviour is problematic, and if so, how he can modify his on-line behaviour for a healthier lifestyle.