Internet Use and Child Behavior Problems

Girl Sitting in Chair in the Sunshine

Behold, the SUN! With the sun shining so gloriously today, particularly after a rainy Midwest spring, many of us will be coaxed by its inviting rays away from our televisions and computers into the great outdoors…aka the backyard with the kids. However, as spring melts into summer and the sunshine loses its novelty, many children will spend the next three months surfing the web or battling their favorite video game bad guy. This definitely isn’t a scene cut from the “good ol’days,” but does this necessarily mean that it’s taking a negative toll on our children’s mental health?

According to a recent study by Holtz and Appel in the Journal of Adolescence (2011), there are definite associations between all of that surfing and battling and the likelihood that your child or adolescent will either externalize or internalize problems rather than dealing with them in a healthy way. The researchers found that certain patterns of internet use and video game playing were more specifically associated with either internalizing or externalizing issues. For example, using the internet for information gathering was not associated with these risks, while using the internet for communication and game playing was associated with higher rates of problem behaviors. Further, kids who preferred to play “first-person shooting games” were more likely to externalize, or act out, their problems while kids who preferred fantasy games were more likely to internalize, or hold in, their issues.

What can be done? Encourage more socially interactive activities! Play with your children, talk to them, exercise, or encourage them to play with friends. If they want screen time, offer limits, so that it is not creating problems for them. If they want alone time, support (and model) reading, music, art, and toys.

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