Controlling Time Spent Online

It was not long ago that parents beamed with pride when their children showed enthusiasm and interest in using the computer. There was a sense that it meant that they were bright and advanced.  But all that has come full circle and parents are more and more frustrated and concerned about the increasing amount of time that their children are spending at the computer. In fact, Internet overuse among adults has become no less of a problem than it is among children with, in some cases, the repercussions being very serious.

From physical conditions that can be tied to computer overuse to concerns of social isolation and neglect of school and job responsibilities, the Internet has become a problematic influence in the lives of many children and adults alike.

One of the biggest concerns about Internet use concerns the actual amount of time that people are spending online. The average amount of time online  at a computer has risen drastically in the last years, from 7 hours per week in 1999 to 13 hours per week in 2009. And as the Internet moves beyond the PC onto hand held devices, these numbers are set to dramatically increase in the coming years. Already today, some people are wired 24/7!  Between their desktop computer, laptop, handheld devices, smartphones and easy access to social media like Twitter and Facebook, some people feel a need to be connected ALL OF THE TIME. And that perceived need, is really an addiction or compulsion.

Why Should You Consider Limiting Time Online?

Even too much of a good thing can be bad. No one should eat broccoli 3 times a day, or do homework 10 hours per day or play sports all day, while neglecting everything else. So the need to create an online schedule or time limit is not because we think the Internet is all bad. It just needs to be put into perspective.

Physical Effects

There is a range of physical problems that can arise from sitting at a computer for hours everyday. Arms, shoulders, neck, back, hands — the muscles are being strained repeatedly in ways that they were not meant to be and even if you do not feel pain now, you are likely to suffer as you get older. Of course most people do not sit correctly at the computer and this further creates the likeliness of problems later in life.

Weight gain is also a symptom of increased computer use. When playing on the computer replaces physical activity, you are less active. The more that happens, the more it will effect your weight. If instead of going to the mall, you let your fingers do the shopping at gap.com and Amazon, that’s that much less physical activity. And each activity that moves online can lead to weight gain and other health issues.

Emotional Effects

When so much time is spent doing any particular activity, it has an effect, for good or for bad, on the mind. Some researchers are talking about the actual “rewiring” of our brains. Many studies have been conducted about the effects of video games, porn sites, online gambling and other Internet activities that are thought to be addicting. Whether or not we want to accept the findings of the studies, one thing is for sure — there is an effect.

A friend told me a funny story of driving in his car with his two sons during a particularly beautiful sunset. His 15 year old son commented, “Look at those great graphics!” It’s a really funny story, but it gets you thinking.

The constant noise, light and activity we are fed from the computers in our homes contributes greatly to our stress. It is also thought that children today, with their need to be in constant contact with friends through Facebook, text messaging, Twitter and whatever other social media they may use at the moment, are much more stressed than previous generations. It’s not about limiting their time online as a punishment or because you don’t want them to have too much fun. It is about taking responsibility for their health and well being.

Do a simple experiment and take note of the difference in sleeping patterns when you go from home computers on 24/7 to shutting all media down in the early evening. I promise everyone in the house will feel calmer, sleep better and sleep more.

When setting a schedule requires enforcement, the best way to enforce your rules is by using a web filter. Set a schedule appropriate for each user and Internet use will be managed automatically with no need to remember or argue.

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