Rosie Miller Asks ...
My daughter is on Facebook all the time. She graduated from high school last year and is taking a year or two off to figure out what she wants to do before college. As far as I can tell, all she wants to do is stay glued to that computer screen. She used to be a pretty social and outgoing girl, but now she barely leaves the house and the only contact she seems to want to have with others is through a computer screen. She had a part time waitressing job but she got let go last week after her manager said she wasn’t paying enough attention to the customers (she was on her phone). She says we’re out of date and out of touch and that this is just the way it nowadays, but all I can see is her wasting her life away without doing much of anything as she stays up all night on the computer. She bought her own phone and the computer was a gift from her grandparents and she pays her own bills. She’s not interested in hearing what we have to say on the matter – but I think she’s addicted to something unhealthy and I want to know how to get her to stop! What can I do?
John Lee Says ...
This is a challenging situation that’s not at all uncommon – and since your daughter is an adult, you have fewer options than you would were she a minor.
From the sounds of things, your daughter would benefit from some counseling, for a couple of reasons.
- Firstly, you don’t make mention of any other challenges that your daughter faces in your letter, but since internet addiction very often occurs as a co-occurring condition to other disorders, such as ADHD, anxiety, depression and others, it’s important to take a good look for anything else that may be amiss and, if necessary, to initiate treatment that will deal with any and all problems more or less at the same time – after all, if excessive internet usage is really a problem that stems out of social anxiety – than without reducing the anxiety, it’s going to be very hard to really change the behaviors that are caused by that anxiety. For this reason, going to see a professional is a valuable first step to an accurate and complete diagnosis of any and all problems.
- Secondly, you mention that your daughter sees you as out of touch with today’s means of communication. To be blunt, she does not consider you to have authority on the subject and so discounts what you say. For this reason, having her get a second, more neutral opinion, could be beneficial. A counselor may be able to help her see that her behaviors are extreme, even by the standards of today’s very plugged in youth.
Find Her a Therapist
Try to find a therapist in your area familiar with treating compulsive internet use. The technique most commonly used to treat internet addiction is cognitive behavioral therapy, which will help your daughter to accept that using the internet recreationally for 12 or more hours a day isn’t healthy and which will teach strategies that she can use to better manage her use. Another technique that therapists might use is something called motivational interviewing, which is an interviewing technique that’s used to help people realize on their own that they need and want change.
Because your daughter doesn’t sound like she’s ready to seek help on her own, you’re going to have bring out the carrot or the stick to get her to agree to see a therapist. If there’s something that she wants, that you’re willing and able to give her – then make that contingent on her agreeing to see a therapist for a few sessions.
Or – if you can’t motivate her with rewards, you’ll have to motivate her with the threat of consequences. For example – if she won’t accept what you’re asking of her inform her that she will have to start paying market rent for her accommodation. You don’t want to make this overly punitive, but you do want to make the ‘cost’ of not agreeing to get therapy greater than the ‘cost’ of agreeing.
The good news for her is that cognitive behavioral therapy is a very fast acting type of therapy – typically only 10 or 15 sessions are required. This is not something that has to go on and on for ever and this is something that is very focused on the present and that will teach her new skills for life – not something that will have her on a couch talking about her childhood.
In addition to having her see a therapist, things that you can try on your own, include:
- Encouraging your daughter to get more involved in real-world activities – supporting her interests or taking her out on outings – join a club or sports team together!
- Have someone her own age talk to her about her internet use. She may not feel you have any authority on the subject, but she may accept the concerns of one of her peers more easily. Ask one of her friends of a close-on-age family member to have a few words with her.