Has anyone ever told you that you’re addicted to the Internet? I bet they were older than you. Someone like your mom, your dad, or maybe even a few of your older relatives complain about how you spend so much time on your iPhone or your PS4 that you are developing an internet addiction.
And the worst part about this? They’re probably right.
Why Your Parents Might Be Right about You Spending Too Much Time Online
As hard as it might be to admit, there’s a good chance the normal way we use the Internet in today’s day and age is actually leading to and online addiction. According to the National Institutes of Health in the United States, people who use the computer around 10 hours a day for 6 days a week had reductions in important areas of the brain. These include areas responsible for short-term memory and regulation of blood pressure and heart rate.
That said, everything needs to happen in moderation, and you should still know when to stop using the Internet.
Online Usage: How Much Is “Too Much?”
The short answer is: it depends.
On what exactly? It actually comes down to whether you do one thing regularly. (But we’ll get to that in a minute.)
Several internet experts have researched online addiction. There are a variety of answers… and most of them don’t even discuss online addiction.
If you try to look up how much Internet is too much, you’ll often find studies related to “heavy internet usage.” One study shows that teens themselves believed heavy Internet users were on the Internet on average for 25 hours a week. Some people define heavy online users as people who are on at least 14 hours per week. To some of you, that’s nothing; that’s only 2 hours a day! Some of you could easily spend 30 to 40 hours per week at home. (And that doesn’t even include the school assignments you have to do online.)
Drew Millard from Vice.com argues that there is a difference between “heavy internet use” and “online addiction.” The amount of time you actually spend on the Internet does not cause you to be addicted to it. What matters is whether your body can handle the amount of Internet you give it.
How to Know When the Internet Is Doing Harm to Your Body
You know you’re spending too much time in front of your laptop or the TV screen when you have to rub your eyes or change your posture. Your body is literally telling you that you’re putting strain on your eyes from staring too much at the screen. Your body is literally telling you that you have been sitting in the same position for too long.
If eye strains and posture aren’t enough, don’t forget that it also affects your bones, ligaments, and nerves in your arms.
Do you ever experience pain or numbness in your hands and fingers? That might be because you are developing a condition called carpal tunnel syndrome. When you play video games or type on the computer for too long, the collection of bones and tendons narrows, which pinches a nerve and sends pain through your arm.
This is some scary stuff! But don’t worry, because there is a way to prevent all of this from happening to you.
The Secret to Curing Internet Addiction (and Body Aches)
If you want to know whether you’ve been online for too long, it really depends on only one thing… and it’s quite simple.
The one thing you need to do is:
Take Internet Breaks!
That’s right. If the Internet has become an addictive force for you – or anyone you know for that matter – the best thing to do is to stay away from it for a while.
This doesn’t mean to stay away from it for days at a time – although some experiments show that might be a good idea – but it’s really important to note that the being away from the Internet is important for your health.
The Main Reason Why You Should Take Breaks from the Internet
Aside from all the reasons related to your physical health, spending too much time on the Internet without taking breaks could be damaging to your mental health. Too much of anything online can deteriorate the relationships you have with people IRL (in real life). According to Web Trends, not being able to distinguish the virtual world from the real world can also lead to self-esteem issues, social anxiety and even cyber bullying.
Taking regular breaks allows you to think about things outside of the Internet. Since the mind controls the body, this also allows your body recuperate.
Not only this good for social media and online gaming purposes, but you’ll notice a more positive difference when you do schoolwork.
How Long Should My Internet Breaks Be?
A good rule of thumb is to spend at least 15 minutes not thinking about the Internet for every hour you are online. (Note that this does not just mean to spend 15 minutes away from technology.)
You can use this time to release your stress in other ways, like exercising or playing a sport for example. You could read a book. You could reconnect with your human side and spend some time with your family.
All of these things are important for helping you build social skills and develop a solid foundation of values at an early age.
If you find the 15-minute-per-hour method difficult to use, try doing a 48-hour technology detox first and see how it makes you feel. (Pay close attention to how you sleep.)
The Internet is a lot of thing to different people. Some people may not understand why you spend so much time online, and that’s probably because they have a different perspective of why you use it.
One thing cannot be argued, though: too much of anything is bad for you. It’s important to take Internet breaks whenever you can.
Whenever you have a headache, or feel pain in your wrists, or feel depressed whenever you don’t have access to the Internet, ask yourself one question and answer honestly: “Are you using the Internet too much?” Chances are you might be, and taking a break from the Internet could be a step in the right direction for solving that problem.