It’s often joked that when a child truly enjoys something, (s)he becomes addicted to it. However, when that something is the family computer the joke isn’t so funny.
Too much time spent at the computer can cause children to miss out on physical activity and social interactions and allow them to “live” in a virtual world.
Though addiction may be a strong word for it, children’s extreme desire to use the computer as much as possible may be worrying if they are using it at the expense of living their own life.
How Much Time Should a Child Spend on a Computer?
There are a variety of educational uses for the computer, but if a child is spending more than an hour per day on these activities it is probably too much and causing him or her to miss out on other parts of life.
If possible, try to limit a child’s time on the computer to less than 60 minutes and make sure that (s)he uses the machine in the presence of an adult.
Reasons For Computer Use
The reasons a child may like to use the computer can vary. Some may enjoy playing games, others may like to visit favourite web sites and still others may have fun with word processing or artistic software.
If you are wondering about your child’s computer use, ask your self two very important questions:
Do you know why your child uses the computer, and if you ask your child will (s)he tell you?
Children who can not give an exact answer or who become flustered or secretive about their computer use may have no reason to be on the computer other than because they can think of nothing that they’d rather do or fear living their life away from the machine.
Get Them Interested in Other Hobbies
If you think your child is using the computer to the exclusion of all other hobbies, think hard about what else (s)he likes to do and indeed the other activities that (s)he joins in often.
If you can come up with multiple activities, both solitary and those that are enjoyed with others, then there is probably no fear that your child is spending too much time on the computer.
If, however, you can not think of any other activities then there is a chance that your child is not living a totally balanced life.
Though extra computer use may be acceptable at certain times (for example, during school holidays), in general it should not take up so much time that it precludes a child from engaging in other activities.
Children need friends, and these friends should be flesh and blood. It may be that your child enjoys communicating electronically with his or her friends, such as by sending emails from your family account, but there is a difference between using electronic communications with parental consent to complement face-to-face communication and using electronic communication (with or without parental consent) that is used instead of face-to-face communication.
Talk to your child about his or her friends as well as proper Internet safety methods. Remind children that they should never disclose personal or sensitive information on the computer and that if someone tries to contact them online then they must tell you about it immediately.
Today’s children have grown up with computers, but that doesn’t mean that they need to be on them constantly. If you worry that your child is addicted to the computer, consider the time that (s)he spends on it, the reason (s)he uses it, other hobbies in which (s)he is engaged and the circle of friends (s)he keeps.
Together these variables should give you a good idea of your child’s computer use and enough information to decide if you child may be addicted to the computer.