Parents worry about kids’ Web use

QUESTIONS::The Grassroots Influence Foundation came in for criticism about the design and subjectivity of the survey after releasing the results of the Web-based poll

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Aug 19, 2015 - Page 3

Taiwanese parents appear very concerned about their children becoming addicted to the Internet, according to a survey released yesterday by the Grassroots Influence Foundation, but a psychologist said parents should “calm down.”

The survey found that 55.2 percent of parents believe that their children show signs of Internet addiction, including 31.4 percent of those with preschool-age children.

Of those who believed their children showed signs of addiction, “boredom” was viewed as the leading cause (74.7 percent of respondents).

Psychologist Chang Li-ren (張立人), a board member of the Taiwanese Institute for the Prevention and Cure of Internet Addiction, said that in clinical practice Internet addiction is diagnosed through patient interviews, with a particular emphasis on negative life influence and a shrinking social circle.

He said that a national survey conducted by the institute last year using more rigorous medical parameters found rates of Internet addiction of about 12 percent for elementary-school students, 19 percent for junior-high school students and 15 percent for high-school students.

The foundation’s survey showed that parents needed to be better informed about Internet addiction symptoms, Chang said.

“In clinical practice we often see parents who are overly concerned about their child’s Internet usage,” he said.

Parents often “demonize” children’s surfing habits without fully understanding how children spend their online hours and whether they are capable of regulating themselves, he said.

“Demonizing” Internet usage is often counterproductive, leading to conflict and even increased Internet usage as children push back against parental interference, he said, recommending that parents calm down and focus more on communicating with their children.

Even in cases of full-blown addiction, parents are not advised to suddenly cut off Internet access, he said.

Treatment usually follows a gradual program of reducing Internet time coupled with individual and family therapy, along with drug treatment if there is underlying depression or other neurological problems.

After reporters questioned whether the survey’s design was “unprofessional” and “overly subjective,” foundation board member Lin Jan-yan (林震岩) said the definition of “Internet addiction” was left up to the respondents.

Lin, a professor at Chung Yuan Christian University, said the foundation wanted to use the survey to raise awareness of the problem and encourage communication between children and parents.

The survey was conducted by the online marketing survey firm Pollster, which polled 1,105 members of its Web site who were over the age of 20 and had children.

The poll had a margin of error of 2.95 percentage points.