Parents should talk with their children about using mobile devices, and stop stigmatizing them by saying they have an “Internet addiction,” a clinical psychologist said.
According to data from Taipei health officials, 5 to 10 percent of suicides among teenagers involved conflicts related to the use of smartphones or other Internet-connected devices.
Psychologist Chiu Yung-lin (邱永林) said that parents should remain calm and communicate with their children when addressing issues related to excessive use of Internet-connected devices, instead of abruptly shutting off Internet access or taking away the device.
Lin said that he often encounters parents who worry about their children spending too much time online or playing on their smartphone, which parents say negatively affects their child’s academic performance.
“The children, in return, often say they became distraught and frustrated, and their self-confidence was damaged when they were scolded for going online, or when parents cut off their Internet or confiscated their cellphones,” Chiu said.
Children and teens often say they feel hurt and their self-image is affected negatively when parents say that they have an “Internet addiction” or call them an otaku — a Japanese term often used pejoratively to mean geek or nerd — or a “loner that doesn’t leave the home,” he said.
“This can lead to stress and conflict in the parent-children relationship, and causes children to resent their parents or have a lower tolerance for handling stress. Then when they feel frustrated or are in a conflict, they might resort to self-harm, or even contemplate suicide,” he said.
Chiu said that when children and teens use mobile devices excessively or isolate themselves from personal relationships or social situations, parents should respond sensibly.
“If parents just scold or disparage their children, then they might feel they are not being accepted, and they will refuse to express their true feelings. This might lead them to believe that they can only find support and appreciation from the Internet,” Chiu said.
“When the parents are too strict on limiting Internet time or time to play on their cellphone, it will cause stress in the family relationship, and might compel their children to go outside the home to play online, like at an Internet cafe,” he said
Sometimes, children might be using the Internet or playing on mobile devices or computers because they are bored, in which case parents should help them develop new interests or hobbies, he said.
If parents struggle to handle their children’s Internet or mobile device use, they can call a help hotline at 1999, extension 8858, where professional counselors can provide support and help parents find resources, Chiu said.
Additional reporting by Jason Pan
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