The Internet – The Great Time Thief

Parents know the value of family time. Spending quality time with your family can bring you all closer together, give you some time to get to know what is going on in your kids’ lives. Finding time to spend with your family is getting more and more difficult in today’s culture of multiple income families. Both mom and dad work, so the kids let themselves into the house after school, and when the parents come home, meals are often microwaved and eaten in front of the television or in the bedroom while doing homework. We have enough distractions from family time to worry about these days. The Internet doesn’t need to be one of them.

Recent research shows that teenagers and older children spend as much as four or five hours logged onto the Internet. About ten years ago, watchdog groups were worried about kids spending that much time in front of the television, only now, they’ve either replaced television with Internet or they’ve simply added the computer to their already full days.

This has become a dangerous trend in youth behavior. With so many things making demands on teenagers’ time, spending time with the family is even more important than it ever has been. Unfortunately, teens are spending less time engaging in meaningful interaction with the family as a unit than they need. In fact, many teens are replacing real human contact with Internet friendships and relationships at a staggering rate.

Family time takes many forms, including nightly dinner, movie night, or a trip to the ballpark. When relationships are fostered within a family structure, the bond between child and parent is strengthened, effectively giving the parent more control over the behavior of the kids. It’s not hard to see the advantage of a strong relationship with your kids. So many parents are exasperated by their kids’ judgment (or lack of the same).

It’s never too late to introduce dedicated family time into your routine. Even if it’s just once a month, it can do worlds to bring your family closer together. Of course, starting family time is much easier the earlier you do it, but it is possible to start family night later in your kids’ lives. Teenagers are usually pretty strong willed, so don’t force them into anything, but you can find something they will join in.

If your teen resists your efforts, find out what he or she is interested in. Perhaps they have a hobby you don’t know about. If they like food, teach them to cook. Maybe going to see a local sports team play will get their attention. Anything you can think of that will engage their attention and allow them to spend time with you in an enjoyable manner is a good idea. The key here is that the time is enjoyable and free from judgment or conflict. If you bring up a subject and they seem a bit defensive, don’t push it too much or you will risk alienating them further.

The Internet is a place for teens and kids of all ages to get together with countless like minded people, so it’s a great escape when family time seems so ‘uncool’. Show your kids that family time is good time; you won’t regret it.

Have a great day!


Teen Activity on the Internet

Nearly 20 million kids between the ages of 12 and 17 are using the Internet on a daily basis. That’s roughly 85%-90% of that age group nationwide. Internet use among teenagers is a very large market, and everybody knows it. Because of the size of this demographic, we need to be extra vigilant about what kids are doing on the Internet.

This is not to say that there are 20 million kids on all at the same time. That would be absurd. There are, however, a little more than half that amount on at any given moment. That’s substantial. That is a staggering statistic, especially when you consider the fact that the 20 million figure represents a nearly 300% increase in the last ten years as opposed to a 10% increase in adult Internet use over the same time period.

With all of these teenagers using the Internet so much so often, we need to ask ourselves what they are actually doing. Millions of kids aren’t just checking email. Research and surveys have shown that kids log on to play games, get news content, purchase goods and services, and obtain information related to health and wellness. This isn’t a comprehensive list of teen activity on the web, of course, but it does represent what a large portion of them are doing.

In fact, many teenagers use the Internet to do research for homework, scores of younger teen girls seem interested in the latest fashion trends and celebrity news, and a good portion of them download music (legally and otherwise).

With the increasing popularity of personal websites and small organization websites, kids are getting their information on local events and sports scores from the Internet. In the last few years it seems that every local club, sports team and social club has their own website, making it easier for anyone to keep up with the group’s activities. Meetings, games, and activities no longer have to be published and mailed, but can just be posted for all to see.

The anonymous nature of the Internet has led scores of young girls to use it to research topics related to health. Dieting, exercise, depression, and other personal subject matters are popular searches for teen girls. This may have something to do with the fact that many teens feel uncomfortable talking about these things with their parents or another adult. In this sense, some teens are using the Internet as a stand in for what used to be the job of a parent, guardian, or teacher.

Other popular uses of the Internet include instant messaging, social bookmarking sites like MySpace and Twitter, and online bulletin boards or forums. Many teens have admitted to maintaining several screen names and email addresses, which they use depending on who they are dealing with. The Internet allows someone to have multiple personalities and identities, and that is very alluring to a teen.

That’s not always a bad thing, though. Teens are always trying to figure out the road to adulthood, and the Internet seems to allow them the freedom to experiment with different forays into the adult world with little to no lasting repercussions. The danger comes when a teen can’t separate reality from the online world. As a parent or teacher, your job is to make clear the difference between the real world and the fantasy world that many teens create for themselves on the Internet.

Have a great day!