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Caught in the Web

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Teenage boy sits staring at his laptop screen
Consider parenting your teens in a way that will keep their online lives healthy, too.

When Kelly wasn’t in school, she was constantly checking Facebook to keep up with the events in her teen world. Jason’s mom recognized his online addiction when he continually created videos late into the night, regardless of the house rules. Chris enjoyed online courses but easily got pulled into role-playing games — his mother confesses that it wasn’t long before Chris was addicted to them. For teens, Internet obsessions and addictions come in many forms, including blogs, gambling, social news sites, social media sites, gaming, pornography and more.

In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association officially announced that “Internet use disorder” might make an appearance in the next edition of their diagnostic manual. Their studies likened the neurological effects of online addictions to the effects experienced by people addicted to cocaine, heroin or other substances. Obvious changes in the brain and its dopamine levels could be charted as online use grew into a preoccupation resulting in increased tolerance levels. Users developed a need to spend more and more time online, and when the Internet was taken away, individuals experienced withdrawal symptoms.

Managing vs. quitting

The Internet has become an increasingly essential tool in communication and work or school tasks. Since most of us use the Internet at some point during the day, managing Internet use is critical because quitting it is seldom a reasonable option. But in the busyness of family life, how do parents stay alert to what teens are doing online and to when their Internet use may be creeping into an unhealthy obsession or even addiction?

It’s important to look at the big picture of your teen’s life. Has she turned to the Internet to create a fictitious image of someone she believes must be better than who she really is? Is your teen bored? Might she be struggling socially, or is she isolating herself? Is she being bullied? Are there events or other changes in routine or behavior that could be connected to an increased interest in the Internet?

It’s essential that you nurture a relationship that invites your teen to come to you when she is hurting or confused and needs to talk. Support her in discovering offline social activities where she can build confidence by engaging in her interests and utilizing her talents. Don’t be afraid to monitor your teen’s online activity while training her to step into responsible and healthy Internet use. And keep the conversation going about all she is doing in life — including what she is doing with her time on the Internet.

Watching for signs of addiction

Dr. Hillarie Cash, co-founder of reSTART, and Dr. Kimberly Young from the Center for Internet Addiction suggest that parents watch for the following warning signs of Internet addiction:

  • craving more time on the Internet
  • lying to conceal extent of involvement
  • using the Internet to escape or to relieve feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression
  • displaying irritability when attempting to cut back
  • neglecting friends and family
  • withdrawing from other activities
  • neglecting sleep to stay online
  • underperforming at work or school
  • showing physical changes in weight or care of self

The presence of three or four of these warning signs suggest abuse, and five symptoms suggest that addiction is likely.

Encouraging healthy alternatives

If your teen shows signs of abuse or addiction, take it seriously. Practically speaking, consider moving the computer to a family space, adding filtering software or taking the computer away. And don’t forget the iPhones, Androids, iPads and other Internet-accessible devices. If necessary, seek professional help.

To overcome online abuses or addictions, teens need definitive time away from the computer, as well as encouragement to pursue healthy replacements and a training time or boundaries for healthy Internet management. Activities, sports, healthy relationships, jobs, volunteer work and ministry can all be a part of that pursuit.

We want our teens to become adults who are engaged in living a full life and influencing the world for Christ. Helping them to reach that goal may include our commitment to monitoring Internet use, nurturing their gifts and talents, and leading by our example of healthy online activity. Behavior-changing management is essential in this world of easy access and online addictions.

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Your Teen Needs You Most of All

No parent of teens is perfect and even the best can learn how to better connect with their son or daughter. Get practical action steps to better connect with your teenager in 8 Essential Tips for Parenting Your Teen in this FREE video series!

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.
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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.

Reconnected: The Digital Experience

Is the love there, but not the spark? Reawaken fun in your marriage and move from roommates to soulmates again with the help of this 7-part online video experience. Learn how to connect emotionally and spiritually as husband and wife using techniques such as dreaming together and establishing deep, heartfelt communication. The Digital Experience includes 7 teaching videos, an online study guide and access to additional tools and resources to help spouses reconnect.

Next Steps: Marriage Assessment

We want your marriage to be thriving and healthy. Take the free Marriage Assessment from Focus on the Family to learn how to strengthen your bond with your spouse and get the tools to help you need to grow closer together. 

Next Steps: Fruit of the Spirit Devotionals for Couples

The Fruit of the Spirit Devotional is a free series of nine short videos to get you into God’s Word and inspire you to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in loving your spouse.

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