A very modern addiction

Our current generation of teenagers has been labelled Generation Z, but they are also known as ‘the Internet Generation’. So named because these children have never experienced life without the Internet.

These ‘digital natives’ (another nickname) are possibly the most intuitive users of the Internet, and certainly among the most prolific.

A 2008 Australian Government report found that children aged 12 to 14 years spend, on average, 1 hour and 32 minutes online each day, while 15 to 17 year olds spend about 2 hours and 24 minutes online each day. Communicating with friends, such as using social networking sites, accounted for 64% of young people’s total Internet time.

But when does Internet use become a problem? When is too much… too much?

Some experts are trying to answer that. Dr Philip Tam, a Sydney-based psychiatrist who specialises in adolescent mental health, has coined the label ‘Problematic Internet Use’, aka ‘Internet addiction’.

He is already treating teenagers whose attachment to the Internet is seriously negatively affecting their real world lives.

I attended a talk recently that Dr Tam gave on this subject to a gathering of social and mental health professionals who deal with teenagers, including school counsellors. It was an absorbing couple of hours for everyone, and Dr Tam is giving this presentation to many other interested parties. For there to be such interest, I assume there is the need for this knowledge.

In our feature article Is your teen addicted to the Internet, Dr Tam gives an overview of this new disorder and lists the warning signs.

To parents whose teenagers are currently doing their Year 12 exams, good luck to you and your kids. For those of you with children in Year 11, I’ll leave you with this: child psychologist Michael Carr Gregg recently told a conference of educators that one thing last year’s top achievers had in common was they’d given up Facebook for the year. Good luck selling that idea. I know how it would go down in our house.




  1. Michelle Nugent says:

    My son was bullied on Face book and deleted his account,then reduced his freinds list down to ”real freinds” which was about 10[from 1400]he was much happier.
    Giving up FB for a year is a bit extreme ,everyones already addicted to it,but having self control is the key ,it can become a huge problem with teens when they are at that horrible growing/insecure /judgemental stage that we all went through as teenagers when they are searching for there identity.

    • Thanks for the comment Michelle. I think reducing your Facebook friends list to your ‘real’ friends is a great idea for kids having an issue with Facebook and bullying.

  2. Shayne Furlan says:

    The other great issue with teenagers on facebook is the tendency to type and hit enter before taking time to think. Teenagers tend to be a little reactive at the best of times…..when they react quickly online there is no second chance.

  3. With my kids I have in the past deactivated there FB account on the first day of term – to be reactivated after exams. Currently I have a year 12 and this worked well when he was very busy with school work – but hopefully this term we won’t need to do this and he can really learn to self monitor his internet use.

    • Michelle I think this is an excellent idea – perhaps even just leading up to and during exam time. Can you deactivate it so that all their data is still there? Or do they have to recreate their Facebook page from scratch?



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