In an age when the Internet is ubiquitous, everyone has a mobile device and is constantly swiping and flicking at screens everywhere they go. This phenomenon has become a nightmare for parents because children do not know how to use such technology in moderation. As soon as a child develops problematic Internet use (PIU), or is losing sleep and neglects eating, some parents promptly cut off their child’s access to the Internet, which can lead a child to skip classes, run away from home, or rebel against the entire family. Mackay Memorial Hospital Counseling Center section chief Leu Yih-shi says that the Internet is an indispensable part of modern society. Instead of treating it as something to abstain from, it would be better to help guide people in finding a balanced lifelong approach, Leu says.
How can you tell if a child is addicted to the Internet? Although a more complex scale is used in medicine for evaluating and analyzing, Leu says that he usually gives parents a simpler method to determine if their child has a problem — not eating properly, not sleeping when it is time for bed, and skipping out on school or work. Neglecting one’s regular duties in order to continuously stay on the Internet or play computer games for three days or more than a week means that an Internet addiction problem probably exists.
At least one Internet addiction tragedy has occurred in Taiwan before. Hsiao Chieh (pseudonym) had amply exhibited his leadership skills in an online game. His mother, however, only saw her son as a youth totally obsessed with the Internet. After several failed arguments, his mother decided to cut off his access to the Internet entirely. Hsiao Chieh protested and on the second day used Internet cables to hang himself. In his suicide note, he said he had been deprived of his last freedom and wanted to do something that no one could take away from him — suicide.
People that Leu has counseled for PIU include anyone from eight-year-old elementary school students to youths in their 20s. When he encounters anxious parents, Leu consoles them first by telling them that PIU is not a sickness. The Internet and related technology have become a necessity in children’s future lives, so they must be taught how to use these tools appropriately, Leu says.
Lee Ling-hui, principal of New Taipei City’s Yongping High School, says that young people cannot get away from the Internet, particularly when it comes to making friends and playing games. To avoid addiction, Lee believes that parents must guide their children on how to use the Internet correctly from an early age, establishing game rules that must be adhered to, or it will be very difficult to change things once they reach high school.
Leu recommends that parents make time to be with their children, or even set a rule for the entire family to set aside time to be together every night without television or Internet while interacting together. Research shows that when parents and children regularly spend time together and the family has a close relationship, Internet addiction problems will be less likely to arise.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)