Are your children happy to play games online all day every day? Is it having an effect on your relationship with them, and on their relationships with others? If you know in your gut that your children are spending too much time online and that it’s having a negative affect on their behaviour, chances are they are suffering from what’s commonly known as internet addiction.
The good news? This is not a permanent condition! Or at least it doesn’t have to be. You can help your children with internet addiction, and you don’t have to be tech-savvy to do it. Read on to find out the first huge step you can take to help your children with internet addiction.
Why You May Want To Read This If Internet Addiction Is Affecting You
The reason I can share this information with you is because I’ve “been there, done that”. I’m a mother of two boys, and a while ago one of them became addicted to playing games online. Nothing too unusual about that!
In the process of helping him through his internet addiction to the point that he now plays games online in healthy moderation, I gained a LOT of insights that were instrumental in turning our situation around. In fact my son is now able to benefit from playing online games without suffering from the common pitfalls of being online. This is the point I want to help you to reach, and I’m sharing the first major step I took to achieve this outcome with you right here.
My Son Was Addicted To Pokémon
It could have been Minecraft or any other game that had induced the internet addiction my son was going through, but in our particular case it was Pokémon. Incidentally this was well before Pokémon Go came about and my son wasn’t using a mobile phone to play. Instead he alternated between his Nintendo handheld 3ds device, an i-pad, the TV, computer, reading books (OK, so the reading part wasn’t so bad!), and just acting out Pokémon “battles” in his head or with his friends.
No doubt like other online games that are designed to make people obsessed with playing them, Pokémon is quite complex. There are lots of characters – literally thousands of them – and lots of things to learn about each character. The characters evolve into new and ‘stronger’ versions of themselves, and the challenge is to collect as many ‘strong’ pokémons as you can so you can win more battles and progress through the levels of the game. There are different ‘regions’ and plenty of levels to work your way through.
I believe this is what attracted my son to this game: the complexity stimulated his bright mind and perhaps offered him something he needed in his life at that time, or that he felt he couldn’t get or wasn’t getting elsewhere.
The interesting thing to note here was that even when my son wasn’t playing or watching pokémon as such, he was imagining he was playing it in his mind. It was constantly in his thoughts, and it distracted him from all the other activities he was supposed to be doing.
With Internet Addiction Often Comes A Whole New Language
There’s no doubt about it: Pokémon comes with a whole new language. And when you don’t understand or speak that language, it’s very effective in building a wall between those who understand it and those who don’t.
Not only did I not understand the language of Pokémon, but I didn’t particularly care to learn it! I had enough on my plate; like any mum I was busy trying to find time to work (paid and unpaid), study, ferry my children to their extra-curricular activities, maintain our home, exercise (I train in karate), see my husband…and I can’t say that learning ‘Pokémon language’ was exactly high in my list of priorities.
The Biggest Lesson I Learned That Helped My Son With Internet Addiction
While my son was obsessed with Pokémon, I wasn’t hiding the fact that I had no interest in the game. But what was I unconsciously – and unintentionally – communicating to him? I was pretty much telling him that I had no interest in the game that was so important in his life. From my son’s perspective, the message he received was that I simply wasn’t interested in his game, his life, or in him. My son felt (probably subconsciously) that I didn’t respect him or care about him, because I didn’t care about what was going on in his life. Ouch.
Children Are Great Copy Cats
Like it or not, your children copy you. You’ve no doubt heard them repeat things you say, probably exactly as you say them – and it’s often not good! This is why it’s so important of course that as parents we lead by example if at all possible.
My son was no different in this way. He knew that I wasn’t listening to him as soon as he started talking ‘Pokémon language’. And because I wasn’t listening to him, he had stopped listening to me. In other words, from his perspective, why should he listen to me when I wasn’t listening to him? Monkey see monkey do.
You Have Two Options Right About Now
So right now you may be thinking, “My children should listen to me because I’m their Mum/Dad! They should respect what I have to say!” And you may be right. I’m not suggesting it’s OK for your children not to listen to you, or that it was OK for my son to stop taking much notice of what I had to say.
However taking the high moral ground, while tempting, may simply not be effective, or at least not in the long term.
What’s far more effective is leading by example. If you want your children to really listen to you, then you need to show them how it’s done. Take the lead and really start to lead by example. I said earlier that your children will copy you whether you like it or not, so it’s helpful to be aware of how your children see your actions to get an insight into how they are likely to behave themselves – right or wrong.
How To Help Your Children With Internet Addiction: In A Nutshell
The best piece of advice I can offer is to get involved with whatever it is your children are addicted to. It doesn’t matter if it’s Pokémon, minecraft, social media or anything else online. You don’t have to be as tech-savvy as your children are, but you do need to gain some insight about what it is they’re actually playing or doing when they’re online.
You need to learn enough about what they’re doing so that you can ask them questions and share meaningful conversations together. This is how you can get into their world, as opposed to being stuck in your own world. The key is to communicate with them on their level, not yours.
It’s only when you’re talking with them at their level that you can start to break down the walls that have come up between you and your children. You may find that your children open up to you quite quickly, and from there you can start making real progress in terms of helping them through their internet addiction.
It’s important to note that it isn’t your fault in any way if your children are suffering from internet addiction. It’s also not their fault. It happens very quickly and easily and generally it’s nobody’s ‘fault’ as such, just a part of the world we’re all consumed with in this digital age. You can spend your time complaining about it, or you can invest your time taking constructive steps towards dealing with it.
If you choose to do the latter, you’ll gain a heap of useful insights and much needed knowledge through my Peaceful Digital Parenting Solution. You can learn more about that here.
Alternatively, if you’d like to just keep up with the latest in technology as far as it relates to your children, and to be part of a unique community of like-minded parents all offering constructive help and going through the same challenges as you, find out more about joining the Peaceful Digital Parenting Membership group here.