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Despite the wealth of information and interaction available for teenagers who use a computer on a daily basis, there are also potential problems and pitfalls. Parents should be careful to monitor, limit and guide teenage computer usage--teaching teens to use all technology in a controlled and responsible manner.
Decrease in Physical Activity
Long hours of computer use can decrease activity and cause weight gain.
When teenagers spend long hours in front of a computer screen, their physical activity levels decrease dramatically. This more sedentary lifestyle can result in weight gain--which in turn can cause a number of ailments such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels or an increased risk for diabetes.
Parents should encourage their teens to balance time on the computer with activities that encourage physical fitness.
Exposure to Internet Predators
Parents struggle with how to limit the use of computers for their teen's protection.
One of the most frightening dangers of teen computer use is the potential exposure to Internet predators. Teenagers can come in contact with individuals who mask their true identity in attempts to lure them into risky or dangerous behavior.
Parents should take time to explain the dangers of interacting with strangers on the Internet and monitor usage to help keep their teens safe.
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Computers can have adverse social effects on some teenagers.
Extensive computer use can lead to adverse impacts on a teen's social conduct and development. Spending too much time on a computer can create an environment of social isolation. In addition, teens can fall prey to or become part of cyberbullying behavior that involves emotionally torturing victims via computer or phone contact.
Parents can help teens with issues like cyberbulling by keeping an open line of communication with their teen and being sensitive to their moods and emotions--especially if they become despondent when using the computer. Console them, let them know they will not lose their computer privileges by telling you of a problem with someone online and let them know you are always there to help and listen to them.
Impact on Eyesight
Computers can cause eye strain and headaches.
An article published by the Economic Times says that neurologists believe that staring at a computer screen for hours on end increases teens' potential for vision problems or even eye-strain induced headaches. However, they can lessen these problems by taking frequent breaks from the computer to get away from the glare of the screen.
Also, when using the computer for long periods, teens should give their eyes a break by looking a long distance across the room instead of the short distance to the computer screen. This can help lessen strain on a teen's eye muscles.
Potential Attention, Aggression or Addiction Disorders
Can the Internet be causing attention, aggression or addiction disorders in our teens?
Some experts are worried that extensive computer usage might be creating attention, aggression or addiction disorders in our teens, as reported by ConsumerAffairs.com. A noted British neuroscientist, Dr. Susan Greenfield, fears social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter might be "rewiring" young teen's brains, resulting in shorter attention spans and promoting instant gratification.
Other experts are concerned about the potential of increased aggression and Internet addiction disorders as noted in research at Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan.
The Effects of Too Much Exposure to Computers on Adolescents
Teenagers' constant access to computers presents challenges to parents that didn't exist in the years before the widespread use of personal computers. Overexposure to computers can have a negative effect on teens. It's up to parents to observe teens carefully to see if any negative effects appear as a result of long-term computer use.
Obesity in teens is linked to the number of hours they spend sitting instead of participating in other, more active pursuits. Hours sitting at a computer compound with other sedentary time such as watching television for a total of 5 1/2 hours of screen time per day, on average, for teens. That is more than double the recommended amount, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Teens who spend more hours sitting at the computer each week are at a higher risk of increased levels of body fat. The health problems this causes later in life means that parents need to help teens balance computer time with physical activity.
When a teen has his own computer in his room, parents need to pay attention to the teen's sleep patterns. Disruption to sleeping patterns is seen in teens who are extremely active in social networking and stay up chatting until the wee hours. This also occurs with online gaming. If your teen is seriously involved in online gaming and his sleep is suffering as a result, it's time to impose limits on gaming hours.
The American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a study that looked at the link between certain online behaviors and depression among teens. It found a connection between Facebook use and depression. Facebook can play a role in depression because of the large number of hours that teens spend on the site and the extent to which they value their online social interactions. While the study did not recommend total blackouts on Facebook for teens, it does raise points demonstrating that parents and doctors need to be aware of the emotional impact that the social network site might be having on teens.
For a healthy teen, adolescence is the time to meet new friends, have new experiences and build the identity that will dictate the type of adult she will grow into. For teens who spend too much time online, this might not be the case. If a teen spends so much time online that she misses out on the experiences and networking that is common among teenagers, it can equate to a slowed social development. Parent advocate Sue Scheff worries that too much Internet use can limit the development of teens as they miss out on the previously essential teen challenges and experiences.
Too Much TV, Video and Computer Can Make Teens Fatter
ScienceDaily (Sep. 21, 2010) - Too much television, video games and Internet can increase body fat in teens. A five-year study from the University of Montreal and the Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center, published in theAmerican Journal of Epidemiology, has found teenagers have four different patterns of screen use: increasers, decreasers, consistently high and consistently low users.
Even teens from the consistently low group exceeded two hours per day of screen time on average, yet organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommend limiting screen use to two hours per day. Increasers and consistently high screen users had the greatest increases in percent body fat, while decreasers had the lowest gains in percent body fat
While the majority of adolescents in the study maintained a typical ''flat'' pattern of 25 to 30 hours of screen time per week, close to 30 percent of adolescents had screen time patterns that increased, decreased or remained high over time. The scientists found that these atypical' patterns had the greatest impact on weight gain.
"There is some concern that adolescents' television, video and computer use is filling much of their discretionary time" says lead author Tracie A. Barnett, a professor at the Université de Montréal's Department of Social and Preventive Medicine and a scientist at the Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center. "Our findings show that youth are at greater risk of increased body fat if screen use increases through high school; one possible reason is that teens who increase their screen time are simultaneously reducing involvement in and opportunities for more active pursuits." Similarly, teens that had initially high levels of screen use but dropped their screen use over time ended up with the most favourable body fat profiles.
Dr. Barnett and her team evaluated 744 participants, as of grade 7, from 10 Montreal high schools. Teens reported screen time and their level of physical activity four times per year or a total of 20 times during the five-year study. The research team also measured height, weight and body fat of participants several times over the course of the investigation.
"The high levels of screen time observed in our study underscore the need for public health strategies to reduce overall screen time among youth. Encouraging less screen time, and some form of monitoring to prevent excessive increases in screen time through high school, would be beneficial to teenagers. Since most already have firmly established viewing habits at the start of high school, these strategies also need to target kids before they even begin high school," says Dr. Barnett.
The study was funded by the Canadian Cancer Society, the Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Teen Sleep Deprivation
Having worked with adolescents for the past twenty years, it's been impossible not to notice an epidemic of disrupted sleep patterns in recent years. While many students attending treatment programs are sleep deprived due to depression or anxiety, many also seem to have increased depression and anxiety due to inadequate or poor quality sleep. Regardless of whether, in chicken and egg terms, the sleep disorder came first or the emotional disorder came first, the two can create a self-reinforcing cycle with severe consequences. Other causes of sleep deprivation may be environmental or behavioral rather than emotional. But whatever the cause, recent studies link sleep deprivation not only to daytime grumpiness, but to adolescent obesity, drug use, depression, school failure and even suicide.
Some adolescents are prescribed medications to address sleeplessness, which can be a viable therapeutic solution for short-term sleeplessness caused by emotional disturbance or to reset poor sleep habits formed over time. But medication can also carry with it side effects including nightmares, daytime grogginess, abuse and dependency. When practicable, alternatives or complements to medication-described at the end of this article-can be a more effective long-term solution than medication. Understanding the root cause, or causes, of your teen's sleep deprivations can help you, your doctor and your psychologist make informed decisions about what strategies to employ to help your child get the sleep she needs.
WHAT CAUSES TEEN SLEEP DEPRIVATION?
Technology and Social Networks
Many teens stay up late to meet with peers online for gaming, chat rooms, texting sessions and other phone or computer based activities. Studies indicate that the timing of these sessions is a socially contagious phenomenon and the trend in many social circles is toward late-night interaction. Adolescents may also be more inclined to late-night technology use when it includes topics or behaviors they wish to hide from their parents, such as talking to a forbidden boyfriend, communicating with a negative peer group, discussing drug and alcohol use, engaging in mature gaming, or viewing pornography.
Depression and Anxiety
While depression is sometimes the cause of extreme drowsiness and excessive sleeping, it can also lead to poor quality of sleep and/or the inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep. Anxiety, which is often directly linked with depression, also can severely disrupt the quality and duration of sleep. This resultant lack of sleep can exacerbate the depression and/or anxiety, leading to a downward emotional spiral.
Drug use can itself cause sleeplessness or sleep disruption. At the same time, sleep deprivation-whether caused by an emotional disturbance, computer use or another issue-is sometimes addressed by adolescents through self-medication. Many of the social networks that teens engage late at night encourage the use of drugs-especially marijuana-as a sleep aid, according to a study out of UCSD and Harvard University. Because of the socially contagious nature of such behaviors adolescents are much more vulnerable to self-medication when they participate in a social network that encourages it. Regardless of which comes first, the cycle of insomnia and drug abuse is self perpetuating.
A field study of middle school and high school students published in the scholarly journal, Neuroendocrinology Letters, found that inadequate or poorly timed exposure to natural light in the morning can also lead to insomnia. Improper sunlight exposure (specifically blue light) delays the production of melatonin which in turn delays the onset of sleep. The phenomenon, called "night owl syndrome" by researchers, is associated with lower academic performance and other problems. Schools are using this data to inform changes in school schedules and building design in order to ensure that students get more exposure to sunlight at the right times.
Some adolescents are exhausted in the morning and throughout the day because they have been out for much of the night. Young people who have been forbidden to see a certain peer group, boyfriend or friend may routinely slip out at night if inadequately supervised. This can go on for days, weeks or months without being detected by parents.
WHAT TO DO?
In general, a short-term medication regimen is recommended primarily for sleeplessness caused by anxiety or depression. Even in these cases, medication alone is seldom the entire solution; therapy to address the root causes of the anxiety or depression is generally recommended in conjunction with medication. Other causes of sleeplessness tend to be behavioral in nature and are best addressed through a strategy designed to address the root behavior. Often-as in the case of late night computer use or sneaking out-this means reclaiming a level of parental oversight and benevolent control that may not be welcome!
In some situations this may mean putting parameters around telephone and computer use, and physically controlling those items after hours if agreements are violated. Some parents may even install computer programs to help them monitor their child's computer use and sites visited. In the case of sneaking-out behavior, window and door sensors or sporadic bedroom checks may be the only way to monitor behavior so that violations can be addressed through a combination of discussion, consequences and possibly therapeutic intervention. In the case of poorly timed light exposure, new family habits involving different waking times and early morning walks might be a smart strategy.
Whatever the cause of adolescent sleep deprivation, it's important to know that it can have much more serious and far-reaching consequences than previously imagined. Adolescent obesity, drug abuse, depression, school failure, anxiety and suicidal thinking are all linked to inadequate or poor-quality sleep. It's also important to engage the appropriate resources to help you understand the nature of your child's sleep deprivation and to provide the proper support and intervention. Making your own careful observations, talking to your child, and engaging the services of both a physician and psychologist are great places to start if your adolescent shows signs of sleep deprivation.
Excessive Facebook Use May Lead To Depression In Teens
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - A new study saying social networking sites are leading to depression in pre-teens and teens, gives parents another reason to limit their kid's time on the computer.
Like most teenagers, Keith Balke has a Facebook page.
"I'm just there to talk to my friends and see what other people are doing," Balke said.
He logs on every day and is never bothered by postings or when a friend request is ignored.
"It's their life, they can do what they want," Balke said.
However, there are other teens who take Facebook so seriously that they develop what's called "Facebook depression."
A study in the American Academy of Pediatrics said it often happens when teens spend hours on social networking sites and begin comparing their lives to those of their friends.
"Adolescence is a very vulnerable period of time," said Steve Robinson, a family practice doctor at Fairview. "Something as simple as being unfriended by someone can be a very significant thing."
Social media is becoming such a part of adolescent lives that pediatricians are beginning to incorporate it in their wellness checks.
"We talk about two hours a day of screen time being an appropriate amount," Robinson said.
Doctors said parent involvement is the best way to avoid "Facebook depression."
"I try to have an open conversation with both my children," said Tammy Allen, Keith's mother.
Allen even started her own Facebook page, which is another recommendation from pediatricians.
A different study out from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Facebook may help identify people who are depressed, based on their references to depression symptoms in their profiles.
WRAPPED UP IN THE WEB
The Dangers of Teen Internet Addiction by Sue Scheffâ„¢
In today's society, the Internet has made its way into almost every American home. It is a well-known fact that the web is a valuable asset for research and learning. Unfortunately, it can also be a very dangerous place for teens. With social networking sites like Myspace and Friendster, chat rooms, instant messaging, and online role-playing video games, our children are at access to almost anyone. Sue Scheff, along with Parent's Universal Resource Expertsâ„¢, is tackling the dangers of the web.
Keeping tabs on our teens' online habits doesn't just keep them safe from online predators. More and more parents are becoming wary of the excessive hours their teens spend surfing the web, withdrawing from family, friends and activities they used to enjoy. Internet Addiction is a devastating problem facing far too many teens and their families. While medical professionals have done limited research on the topic, more and more are recognizing this destructive behavior and even more, the potential mental effects it can have.
Though the web is a great place for learning and can be safe for keeping in touch, it is important that families understand the potential risks and dangers to find a healthy balance between real and virtual life.
The Basics: The Dangers of Teen Internet Addiction
It's clear that, for teenagers, spending too much time online can really deter social and educational development. The Internet world is such that there is always something new to do and to distract one from one's responsibilities. We all do it- take ten minutes here or there to explore our favorite gossip or sports site. There is nothing wrong with using the Internet as a tool for research, news, and even entertainment. After all, the World Wide Web is the world's most accurate, up to date resource for almost any type of information.
But as the Internet evolves and becomes more tailored to the individual, it grows increasingly easier to develop a dependency on it. This is especially true for teens- a group that tends to be susceptible to flashy graphics and easily enticed by the popularity of social networks. In a sense, the Internet is the new video game or TV show. It used to be that adolescents would sit in front of the TV for hours on end operating a remote, shooting people and racing cars. Now they surf the web. Teens are impressionable and can at times be improperly equipped to handle certain situations with a degree of reason and rationality. And although they may have good intentions, they might be at risk of coming across something inappropriate and even dangerous.
We've all heard the stories about children entering chat rooms who end up talking to someone older than them who may be looking for something more than merely a chat. These tales may sound far-fetched, or to some, even mundane, because of the publicity they've received, but as a parent it would be rather foolish to dismiss them as hearsay or as something that could never actually happen to your child. The fact is, these accounts of sexual predation are all too true and have caused some families a great deal of strain and fear. Even pre-adolescents have been known to join chat rooms. The reality is that there is no real way of knowing who might be in one at any given time. An even scarier thought is that these forums are often sexual predators' main source of contact with young children. In fact, the popular TV show, [To Catch a Predator (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10912603/)], employs someone to pose as a teen and entice these sex offenders. The show profiles the interactions between them all the way up until the actual meeting. Some of the situations portrayed are horrifying. If you're the parent of a teen or pre-teen, make sure to monitor Internet activity with regards to chat rooms and educate your child on the potential dangers they present.
SENSITIVE SUBJECT MATTER
Human curiosity is perhaps at its peak during one's teenage years. That curiosity is what aids teens in the growth and development process. It's necessary for survival as an adolescent and can provide for some great discoveries and maturation. However, teen curiosity can also potentially lead a person into some questionable situations, and the Internet is a prime medium through which to quell one's inquisitiveness. Let's face it- teenagers are anxious to be knowledgeable about topics such as sex, drugs, and other dangerous subject matter.
Talking to your teen about these sensitive subjects before he or she has a chance to search online can be a great way to allay his or her need to surf the web for more information. The Internet might be an excellent tool for presenting interesting data, but it can also grossly misrepresent certain issues. If a teenager wants to learn about sex or drugs via the web, he or she might decide to do a search containing the words "sex" or, perhaps "marijuana." The results your child might find may not necessarily be the type of educational, instructive material you'd hope they would receive. The Internet may be savvy, but one thing it's not capable of doing is knowing who is using it at any given time and how to customize its settings. Talk to your children about subjects you feel are important before they have the chance to find out themselves. You never know what they might come across.
LIMITED SOCIAL GROWTH
There is no better time to experience new things and meet new people than during one's teenage years. Getting outside, going to social gatherings, and just having a good time with friends are among some of the most productive and satisfying activities in which teenagers can engage. While the Internet can provide a degree of social interaction, online networks and connections cannot replace the benefits of in-person contact. Teen Internet Addiction is dangerous because it limits a person's options when it comes to communication. Much of learning and growing as a teen comes from the lessons one learns through friendships, fights, disagreements, trends, popularity, etc.
The Internet has made it all too easy for teens to recoil from the pressures of adolescence and remain indoors. The lure of the web can often make it seem as though social networks and online gaming are acceptable substitutes for real life. Teens can find acceptance in chat rooms and message boards, while at school they might be complete outcasts. It's easy for teenagers to rebuff the idea of interacting with their peers and risking rejection when the Internet can provide for a seemingly relaxed environment. Children need to know that Internet addiction and reliance on online forums will only stunt social growth and make life much more difficult in the future.
Internet dependency also inherently promotes a lifestyle that is not conducive to exercise and physical activity. Many teens tend to become so enthralled in games or chats that peeling them away from the computer can prove to be an ominous task. The entertainment the Internet can provide often trumps the option to leave the house and get exercise. Parents should encourage their teens to use the Internet for school projects and some degree of entertainment, but they should also limit the time that they are allowed to spend on the computer. Begin supporting your child's involvement in sports teams at an early age and make outside activities fun and interesting. The earlier a child is introduced to the mental and physical benefits of outside activity, the more likely he or she is to avoid inside amusements such as the Internet, TV, and video games.
Nowadays it seems our whole lives can be conducted via the Internet. We can order, purchase, and have groceries delivered all with the click of a few buttons. We can play games, talk to people, find dates, and even attend AA meetings online. The Internet may have made our lives and their day-to-day processes exponentially easier to accomplish, but by the same token it has also increased our dependence on the advantages it can provide. The convenience it creates has been known to cause some people to recoil from outside situations, opting to conduct as much business as possible from home. We must be careful of this trend, especially with teenagers, for whom positive (and negative) social interaction help to form valuable personality and wisdom.
Finding a Healthy Balance
WARNING SIGNS YOUR TEEN MAY BE ADDICTED
Psychological and Physical Signs and Symptoms
If you are worried that your teen may be suffering from an unhealthy addiction to the Internet, there are many physical and mental warning signs to watch for. Many of these symptoms are very similar to those of depression and anxiety, another very serious condition affecting teens today. If you feel your teen is suffering from depression, please visit Sue Scheffâ„¢'s web resource on teen depression and anxiety.
Feelings of intense happiness and euphoria while using the Internet, and feelings of depression, anxiety or irritability if away from the computer
Cravings for the Internet - Never having enough time with it
Neglecting family and friends - spending more time with the computer and less time doing activities previously enjoyed.
Getting behind on homework or school activities
Lying about what they are doing while online
Complains of dry eyes
Complains of Headaches
Complains of Backaches
Changes in eating habits such as skipping meals or over eating
Neglect of personal hygiene
Problems with sleep
WHAT SHOULD PARENTS DO?
Examine your Internet habits. Do you spend too much time in front of the screen? The habits of you and your family impact your teen. Be a good role model!
Look for the above warning signs, and take action if you feel your teen may be at risk. Seek professional help.
Always keep the computer in a common area of the home where it can be monitored by you.
DO NOT BAN THE INTERNET. Instead, work with your teen on a time schedule that feels fair to the both of you.
Encourage social activity outside of the Internet. Because chatting, emails, and other online social media make it easy for teens to stay at home, open the door to more outside activity. Plan events with friends and family.
Internet USAGE EFFECTS websites
1. http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1981293/internet_linked_to_teen_depression/ (Depression)
3. http://www.medindia.net/news/healthwatch/excessive-internet-usage-is-a-sign-of-depression-101898-1.htm (Excessive Internet Usage is a Sign of Depression)
GRAPHS n FACT PHOTOS
1. http://mashable.com/2011/12/13/teens-social-media/ (Teens cruel world of Social Networking)
Parents Monitoring n Preventions
(How-To: Monitor your Teenagers Internet Use Part 1)
1. http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2007/Teens-Privacy-and-Online-Social-Networks/1-Summary-of-Findings.aspx (Teens, Privacy & Online Socail Networks - Summary of findings)
2. http://pewinternet.org/Trend-Data-(Teens)/Online-Activites-Total.aspx (Trend Data - Teens : Online Activities - what teens do online)
3. http://pewinternet.org/Trend-Data-(Teens)/Internet-Access.aspx ( Families with teens by type of internet access)
4. http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2007/Parent-and-Teen-Internet-Use/Data-Memo.aspx?view=all (Parent & Teen Internet Use : Data Memo - findings)
5. http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2007/Teens-and-Social-Media/5-Teens-online-activities-and-gadgets.aspx?view=all (Teens & Social Media - Introduction)
6. http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2007/Teens-Privacy-and-Online-Social-Networks/3-Internet-Use-and-Teens-Computing-Environments/02-American-teenagers-continue-to-lead-the-trend-towards-ubiquitous-internet-connectivity-in-the-US.aspx (Internet Use & Teen's Computing Environments)
TEEN INTERNET STATISTICS
1. http://facebook-parental-controls-review.toptenreviews.com/30-statistics-about-teens-and-social-networking.html ( 30 Statistics about Teens & Social Networking) AWESOME SITE ! wid % statistics
3. http://www.akkamsrazor.com/tags/internet-use/ ( What people are doing online - US Online users)
4. http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1484/social-media-mobile-internet-use-teens-millennials-fewer-blog (Social Media & Mobile Internet Use Among Teens and Young Adults