While time spent online can be immensely productive, when it becomes a compulsion it can damage grades, a scholastic career, work, and relationships. When a student feels more comfortable with online pals than off-line friends or can’t stop playing games, gambling, or compulsively checking smart devices, that student may have a cyber addiction.
Signs and symptoms of cyber addiction vary from person to person. Here are some general warning signs:
- Losing track of time online. Frequently the student loses track of time and stays online longer than intended. Does a few minutes turn into a few hours? Does the student get annoyed if his or her time online is interrupted?
- Having trouble completing tasks at work or home. Is the student falling behind on homework and studying? Perhaps the student often studies late because he or she cannot complete work on time due to unhealthy online habits.
- Isolation from family and friends. Is the student’s social life suffering because of excessive time spent online? Is the student neglecting family and/or friends? Does the student feel like no one in “real life”—even a girlfriend/boyfriend—understands him/her like his/her online friends?
- Feeling guilty or defensive about Internet use. Is the student sick of friends, a partner, and/or family nagging him/her to get off the computer or put away the smartphone? Does the student hide Internet use or lie about the amount of time he/she spends on the computer or a smart device?
- Feeling a sense of euphoria while involved in Internet activities. Does the student use the Internet as an outlet when stressed or sad, or for sexual gratification or excitement?
Internet or computer addiction can also cause physical discomfort, such as the following:
- carpal tunnel syndrome (pain and numbness in hands and wrists);
- dry eyes or strained vision;
- backaches, neck aches, or severe headaches;
- sleep disturbances; and
- pronounced weight gain or weight loss.
- Reach out to the student
- Tell the student that you have noticed he/she appears to be having problems with schoolwork.
- Be supportive, use active listening, and convey your concerns.
- Encourage the student to reach out to Counseling Services, 906-487-2538.
- Ignore the student
- Be afraid to talk to the student about his/her Internet use.
- Expect the student’s cyber addiction to go away without some form of intervention.
- Try to solve this yourself—instead, direct the student to Counseling Services.