11 Signs of computer addiction in children and teens

11 signs of computer addiction in children and teens

Children’s Hospital auf der Bult in Hanover has been caring for addicted children and teens for 20 years. Computer and internet addiction is also covered here. What are the signs of computer addiction and what action to take in the worst case scenario?

For online addicts, computers and the Internet exert an irresistible pull. Photo. rawpixel/Unsplash

Alcohol and drug addiction are probably the best known and most widespread addictions. Right behind come anorexia and gambling addiction. But computer addiction? How can one be addicted to it? You can turn off the computer at any time – can’t you??

Ideal world in the computer game

Computer and Internet addiction is not a substance-related addiction. It is not triggered by the chemical reaction of a narcotic drug. For many people, it is rather the need to escape from their own reality that they ultimately fall prey to. In video games, they explore impressive fantasy worlds, successfully complete important tasks or race through the city center in the most expensive sports cars. Especially in the case of adolescents who are dissatisfied with their appearance or their social environment, the desire to escape into a virtual reality may be expressed.

In this respect, the computer game can also be compared to gambling. Quick gains, quick losses. He/she receives feedback on his/her performance immediately after completing the task. And the best part: no matter what the outcome, the possibility of starting over is always there.

Social media intensify the escape from reality

The PINTA study of the Federal Drug Commissioner in the Ministry of Health assumes that in Germany circa. 560.000 people are addicted to the Internet. Among them are mainly young adults between 14 and 24 years of age. Many Internet addicts have psychological problems, are depressed or have anxiety states. Most are generally dissatisfied with their lives. Whatsapp, Instagram and co. reinforce this dissatisfaction. According to a study by the DAK, young people spend an average of around two and a half hours a day on social media. They post, like and comment from dawn to dusk. The problem arises quickly: too little sleep, escape from reality, lack of communication with the family. For young people to do well, they need a regulated online-offline balance. This can also have a positive effect on health.

Symptoms are comparable to other addictive disorders

As with all addictive disorders, those affected show an (almost) uncontrollable craving for the addictive object. Typically, sufferers exhibit the following signs:

  1. He/she has a constant urge to want to be on the computer/on the Internet.
  2. He/she feels better and seems more relaxed when on the computer or internet.
  3. He/she has no control over his/her computer behavior/ Internet behavior.
  4. The conversations with him/her are all about what to do next on the computer or the Internet.
  5. He/she isolates him/herself.
  6. He/she lies about how much he/she does on the computer or the Internet.
  7. He/she invents excuses to be able to go to the computer or the Internet for a short time.
  8. He/she neglects school, hobbies, family and friends.
  9. He/she slackens in his/her performance.
  10. He/she reacts irritably, nervously, is restless and sleeps badly.
  11. He/she eats poorly and neglects personal hygiene.

Last resort: therapy

Treatment in the therapy ward of the Children’s Hospital on the Bult in Hanover lasts at least six months. During this time, the children and young people are guided step by step towards a meaningful life beyond computer addiction – without the excessive use of Internet and computer games.

First of all, patients have to get used to a regular daily routine again and learn to get along with other – real – people. In addition to their addiction, most patients suffer from psychological disorders such as depression, trauma, ADHD, anxiety or attachment disorders, which are dealt with in individual and group therapy. In addition, regular family therapy sessions are held to improve communication between children and parents. Physical activities such as swimming or climbing also take up a lot of space: They strengthen the self-esteem and show that life beyond computers and the Internet is also fun.

In the hospital school, young people are introduced to adequate use of computers and the Internet. Because unlike drugs, alcohol or cigarettes, exposure to digital media in everyday life can hardly be avoided. Young people must learn to use it, for example, as a work tool, to search for information and to communicate without getting lost in the world wide web.

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