Internet addiction is not solely determined by the amount of time a person spends online, but depends very much on the context, the students of the Nicosia-based GC School of Careers heard on Friday.
Chartered psychologist and senior lecturer in psychology at Nottingham Trent University Daria Kuss explained what internet addiction and especially gaming addiction means to the pupils and after her presentation talked to the Cyprus Mail.
As an example of the context, she gave the example of two case studies, Dave, 21, an unemployed person, and Jeremy, 38, a financial accountant married with children, both of whom spent 14 hours a day gaming online.
“The amount of time is not crucial by itself,” the lecturer said. “It had positive effects for the unemployed person, because it boosts his self-esteem and structures his daily life. For Jeremy, it had negative effects, his relationship broke down, there was a lack of family time and he lost his job.”
The internet is a part of our lives, Kuss said, adding that there was now no ‘on’ or ‘off’ but it is assumed we are networked to people and information all the time.
We have to accept this and find a balance, as being online constantly only causes problems in some cases, such as when it leads to anxiety or takes over to the point that it doesn’t allow for a life away from the screen.
Which is why, she told the Cyprus Mail, parents need to ensure there are discussions around the topic with their kids as a prevention.
“Parents are often busy, and they don’t pay enough attention to what their children are doing. They may not know what their children do online,” she explained. “It needs more than common sense, parents should give the children the attention they deserve, otherwise they will seek to find it elsewhere, like online. And why not spend time together online?”
Open discussions initiated by parents and teachers are important, but there are other strategies which people can employ when a person is in danger of being addicted. When it comes to gaming, it may help to stop the main game.
“Gaming creates an addiction for those with a reward deficiency, as it gives irregular rewards to people,” she added.
There is also the possibility of setting times aside for the internet, freeing time to do other things. Or one can create technology-free spaces in the home or at school.
It is especially important to monitor small children whose brains are even more prone to changes in early development than those of older people.
One should certainly not give access to mobile phones and tablets to infants, she stressed, and limit it in preschool ages. For adolescents it’s a different story, as they mainly benefit from its use since the technology is their main way to interact with others, she said.