Monday, July 13, 2020

Adding to the Internet in children and adolescents: consequences of a life between screens

Experts recommend prevention against the increased use of screens among minors and adolescents that has occurred during confinement. They remember that the abusive use of technologies can translate into an addictive disorder.

Leisure through the screens has been integrated into our society for a long time. During confinement, but although the use of the Internet and social networks has intensified more. For children and adolescents, the Covidien-19 pandemic has meant that they spend more hours at home, spending time with family, doing homework online, and looking for ways to connect with their friends through the screens. And it is that the Internet offers great possibilities to relate and interact with others, but its excessive use can be a risk factor and develop a problematic or addictive use of screens. The data indicates that, currently, the percentage of children and adolescents who make problematic use of the Internet is 9 or 10%, a percentage that has been increased in the last five years,

With the confinement, the use of screens has been increased among children and adolescents and, in some cases, families have been laxer in allowing their use. "Some fathers and mothers, to promote coexistence, entertain their children and be able to telework more calmly, have been more permissive in the use of the Internet, social networks and video games during confinement," explains Rosa Díaz, a clinical psychologist of the Servicio de Child and Youth Psychiatry and Psychology of the Clinical Hospital. Díaz remarks that now it is necessary to return to the habitual use of technologies, but that, in the summer period, this will cost. "In September we will see what consequences the confinement has had and if the cases of children and adolescents who make a problematic use of the Internet increase or if some existing addictions have worsened",

In children and young people, excessive use of the Internet and video games can affect good physical, mental and social development. But misusing the Internet is not the same as having an addiction. There is talk of addiction when a person cannot lead a satisfactory life due to the excessive and uncontrolled use of screens that prevents him from carrying out the activities of daily life normally. "It is established that there is an addiction when the person is unable to control and accept that there are limits on the use of the Internet and continues to access," explains Díaz. Sometimes, in young people, it is quite difficult to detect, because they themselves are not aware of their problem. As in other types of addictions,

The origins of addiction

The causes that can cause the appearance of an addictive disorder to new technologies are diverse and, in many cases, it is a combination of factors. According to Díaz, between 80 and 90% of addiction cases - of whatever type - are young people who have some type of previous disorder or traumatic experiences. "Sometimes you are confused, but if you scratch you discover that behind the addiction there is an academic failure, a very complicated family situation, anxiety or depressive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or some other type of mild neurodevelopmental disorder", explains the psychologist. "In addition," she continues, "they find a graceful way out of their problem."

People who are shy or have problems relating to their social environment are also more at risk of having an addiction to new technologies since the use of the Internet and social networks allows them to communicate and identify with other people without having to interact face-to-face. In addition, the type of reward offered by the Internet, social networks, or video games is immediate, making it easier to be addicted to this activity than to others who may have more long-term rewards. In social networks, for example, each interaction generates different information that makes the person want to consult it again after a while.

In general, children and adolescents are a particularly vulnerable population to develop an addiction to the internet, social networks or video games, because their brain is still in the process of developing and that screens are increasingly present throughout their environment. "The Internet and certain applications have great appeal for young people and it is easy for them to stick, especially if they have some difficulty relating to their daily lives," Díaz emphasizes.

Guidelines and accompaniment to treat additions

The Child and Youth Psychiatry Service of the Hospital Clínico de Barcelona has a specific program for the comprehensive care of children and adolescents diagnosed with an addiction to the Internet, social networks, or video games. Usually, the treatment that is done to control an Internet addiction should be a comprehensive treatment, treating all the problems, and detecting if you have any associated disease. The treatment of symptoms is mainly psychological, as the objective of identifying the causes of addictive behavior and acting through improving the person's abilities. It is about teaching impulse control tools, emotional management, and strategies to deal with stress. Treatment must take into account the need to consolidate progress and prevent possible relapses,

In this sense, joint work with the family of the child or adolescents, and their collaboration throughout the process is considered key. "We give guidelines to families, we give them tools to be firm and set limits, but at the same time with tact and empathy," Díaz explains. There are general guidelines and then new ones are incorporated in each specific case. Generally, Díaz explains, it is about making a pact with the child or adolescent, setting some time limits for technologies, but also taking into account their opinion, reaching an agreement. «In the case of adolescents, they try not to spend an hour or an hour and a half a day on digital entertainment, whether it be mobile, television, or any other type of device. The type of activity is also limited, depending on age, and compliance with this pact is agreed «. And above all,

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