Most of us spend more time online than we should. While it can help young people make friends, it can stop them having face to face interactions. They can become dependent on their devices and develop unhealthy attachments.
Some doctors and researchers are worried about how this affects children's sleep patterns, concentration and health. We want to help you and your family find the balance between online life and real life.
- Talk: having the conversation
Lots of things can trigger online addiction. Your child might go online as an escape if they're having trouble at school or something stressful is going on at home. They might just be shy or lacking confidence and feel more confident behind a screen.
Talk to your child about why they spend so much time online. Try to stay calm and encourage them to take part in other activities that link with their online interests. If they like action games, what about Judo or Karate? If they like roleplaying games, what about a theatre group? If they like chatting and meeting new people, you could suggest Guides, Scouts or a youth group.
- Explore: understanding online addiction
Online addiction can appear in many ways. It could be an obsession with computer games or spending loads of time maintaining online friendships, which replace real life friends and family. It could be compulsively searching the web or gambling online. Some people may be overly interested in adult chat rooms and sites. With young people, this can develop into a distorted understanding of intimacy and relationships.
Spotting online addiction can be tricky as the internet is a big part of all of our lives. Young people might neglect their schoolwork, friendships or other activities to spend more time online. You might notice your child becoming depressed or irritable when they're not online, or attempting to go online at every available moment.
- Agree: setting the ground rules
Start from an early age to help your child develop good online habits. Discuss when they can go online, create a family agreement and make sure everyone sticks to it. Remember to balance online life with offline life and try organising family activities.
And don't forget to be a good role model yourself. It might not always feel like it, but your child notices how you act and follows your lead.
Need help creating ground rules with your family?
Take a look at our family agreement template. It’s designed to help you create a set of rules that works for your family.
Don’t forget to review your rules together regularly to keep them up to date.
- Manage: taking control
You can set up timers on most computers, phone and tablets to help the family stick to the rules. You can also download apps to monitor what the family is doing online.
If you need more tech help, book an appointment with one of our O2 Gurus or call our helpline on 0808 800 5002.
The children pictured are models. Photography by Tom Hull.