Digital Addiction: Are your kids addicted to the Internet?

September 21, 2017 11:36 PM

Experts say technology can be just as bad as hardcore drugs. Doctors are seeing children as young as three years old addicted to technology.

We're talking about smartphones, tablets, Xbox controllers: Kids have them in their hands constantly. Experts say they're a form of digital drug that can be as addictive as heroin!

"My youngest is typically on," said Heidi LaDuca of Webster. "My 18 year old is definitely on Instagram and Snapchat a lot."

For parents like LaDuca, it can be hard to limit their kids' time on technology! "It's a distraction, and it's at a level that it's probably never been before," said LaDuca. "I believe it's an addiction. The constant need to be connected, to know what's going on."

Dr. Kimberly Young is a professor at Saint Bonaventure University. She founded the Center for Internet Addiction and Recovery. She says digital addiction is similar to drug and alcohol addiction. Recent research shows digital devices can affect the brain the same way that cocaine and heroin does.

"If we were talking about drugs, we'd say, 'Oh my god, that's a problem,' but because we're talking about technology it still just isn't readily accepted," said Dr. Young.

According to Dr. Young, it's important for parents to set household rules. She says children as young as three years old can for an addiction.

"They can get to a point where they're habitually using it. They're breaking parents' rules for technology," said Dr. Young. 

Here are the guidelines she recommends:

  • Birth – 3 years: Never
  • 3 – 6 years: One hour a day/Supervised 
  • 6 – 9 years: Two hours a day
  • 9 -- 12 years: Two hours a day/some independence on social media
  • 12 - 18 years: Independence/Digital Diet

I asked LaDuca's 18-year-old son Jared how much time he's spending on his iPhone and tablet. "Probably around five to six hours a day," Jared LaDuca said. "I think I probably do have a problem with it."

He doesn't think it's serious. Most of that time on technology is at school.

Heidi LaDuca says it's a lot harder to monitor her older children.

"I'm sure he's spending a lot more time on his phone than I would approve of," said LaDuca.

So how do you know how much is too much? Dr. Young says, "As long as they're having a balance with physical and social activities with the technology, I don't think that's a sign of an addiction."

Parents also need to model good technology use according to Dr. Young.

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In the meantime, are YOU addicted to the internet? Click here to take our questionnaire and find out. I took it, and according to the test -- I'm addicted.

Here are some symptoms of internet addiction: 

  • Failed attempts to control behavior
  • Neglecting friends and family
  • Neglecting sleep to stay online
  • Being dishonest with others
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious, or depressed as a result of online behavior
  • Weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Withdrawing from other pleasurable activities

Click here for more resources from the Center for Internet Addiction and Recovery


Nikki Rudd

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