Excessive Internet Use – A Real Problem.
While the internet is a powerful learning, recreational and social media tool, much has been written about the damaging effects to children (and adults!) of spending excessive amounts of time online. A psychologist working in this area, Dr Kimberly Young, has identified symptoms which could be indicative of excessive internet use, such as
- Agitation and anger when interrupted online
- Irritable if not allowed online
- Loses track of time online
- Sacrifices sleep to spend time online
- Neglects fundamental parts of their daily lives to spend time online, such as homework, hobbies or chores
- Prefers to spend time online instead of with family and friends
‘The Challenge of Excessive Internet Use’ http://zeeko.ie/blog/
When these symptoms appear it is time to take a good look at the child’s time spent online, and seek help if necessary, but much can be done to prevent a child reaching that stage. The authors of website www.zeeko.ie have the following advice.
Preventing Excessive Internet Use – The 5:1 Rule
We have conducted extensive research into excessive internet use, the habits amongst children in Ireland and the optimum time spent online in order to come up with an appropriate guideline in this regard. As a result, we are pioneering the 5:1 Rule; 5 hours of real world activities to 1 hour of ‘screen time’.
In order to use the 5:1 Rule, it is important to understand what we are referring to when we say ‘screen time’; the time spent looking at a laptop, PC, TV, smart phone, tablet, iPod etc. All of these devices involve ‘blue light’ technology, to which children should not be overexposed. It causes suppression of the hormone, melatonin, which is also known as the ‘sleep hormone’. Excessive exposure to this ‘blue light’ will disturb your child’s sleep patterns. It is highly recommended that screens are turned off an hour before bedtime, and that there are no screens in the bedroom. Experts advise that ‘blue light’ exposure at or around bedtime impedes upon sleep quality, and can have a significant impact on the child’s learning capacity, by affecting memory consolidation (the process through which new information is committed to the brain). In other words, a good night’s sleep is fundamental in optimising memory consolidation and learning (The American Physiological Society, 2013).
In addition, we recommend downloading a piece of software called f.lux (also available as an app). The programme is free to avail of, and removes the blue light from your screen in line with the natural sunset, thus mimicking natural sunlight patterns. This minimises the impact of ‘screen time’ after sunset upon melatonin production, which in turn reduces the impact of ‘screen time’ upon sleep patterns, so it is a valuable tool for children and adults alike.
Extract from, ‘The Challenge of Excessive Internet Use’ http://zeeko.ie/blog/
www.zeeko.ie is based in UCD, Belfield. The site offers parents and teachers the knowledge and tools to protect children online and to empower children to make smart decisions to protect themselves online.