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Putting cyberaddiction into perspective

Putting cyberaddiction into perspectiveThe viewpoint of an organization fighting child pornography on the Internet

If some researchers believe cyberaddiction is a new form of addiction without drugs, other specialists are convinced that we should not become alarmed if our teenager spends too much time in front of the Internet or playing video games. Véronique Fima-Fromager, the director of the organization Action Innocence France, gives us her opinion on cyberaddiction and tries to throw light on this new trend for the benefit of worried parents.

 

 

What is the mission of the organization Action Innocence?

 
 

Action Innocence is an NGO founded in 1999 in Switzerland and in 2003 in France. Its mission is to contribute to preserve the dignity and the integrity of children on the Internet:

 

Action Innocence activities include:

  • Prevention in schools by psychologists, for children, teenagers, parents and professionals;

  • Awareness campaigns in the medias;

  • Fighting child pornography file trafficking, in collaboration with police services in Europe.

 

 
 

What do you think of cyberaddiction?

 
 

According to some specialists, of whom Action Innocence shares the viewpoint, it is better to avoid speaking of video game addiction during adolescence. Indeed, at this age, everything can change quickly.

 

Excessive gaming usually stops by the end of adolescenceExcessive game usually disappears at the end of adolescence. When it is persistent, it is always the sign that the teenager is suffering in his personal life (such as heartbreak, violence at school…) or at home (divorce, house moving…). In a few cases, it can be the sign of a personality disorder (depression, psychosis).

 

Before being alarmist, it is necessary to try to evaluate to what extent the child puts himself in the virtual worlds: is the use temporarily excessive or has it become effectively pathological?  Does he play for pleasure or to avoid displeasure?

 

In this evaluation, it is important to consider the global time spent in front of screens whatever they are (television, computer, video game…).

 

It is also necessary to consider school results, the lack of other occupations (such as sport), social isolation and the regular use of toxic substances like tobacco, hashish or coffee.

 

 
 

What would you suggest to parents worrying about the use their children are making of computer and Internet?

 
 

“ Video games…

While excessive play of video games can be damaging to the development of a teenager, it can also be used to develop some abilities. Everything depends on the game.

 

The idea is not to hide the risks of these games but to keep an objective approach. Too often, video games are a source of misunderstanding for non-players. Many teenagers complain that they cannot speak about the games they like with their parents. However, it is essential to set up a family dialog around this leisure activity.

 

Limit the time spent playingThe role of parents is to limit the time spent playing, introduce a contract and to make sure the family respects it. Children do not have control over their impulsions and cannot stop by themselves, even if they want to. For the same reason, it is better to cut Internet access at night.

 

But parents must also show their interest in the games their children play by asking questions or even cheering them on their success. When the player talks about the story of the game, he learns how to stand back, express and share his emotions. If there is a problem, it is always possible to see a specialist.

 

In addition, some games are extremely violent. This is why it is recommended, before buying a game, to check if it suits the age of the child. These virtual worlds can quickly create a form of addiction, if only for their time-consuming aspect. It is the role of parents to set rules to supervise their use.

 

The Pan European Game Information classification system exists to help buyers find the game that suits them, according to their age. In France, a group of institutional, professional and associative partners created PédaGojeux, an informative website on video games and their use. The objectives are 1) to increase public awareness of the issues of child protection and the appropriate use of video games; and 2) to provide parents with educational approach around the video game problematic.

 

Computer and Internet in general

These recommendations are also applicable to the use of Internet in general by children and adolescents. It is the role of the parents to set limits with their children and to show them how to use the Internet. Nowadays, digital education must be part of general education.

 

 
 

Do children and teenagers sometimes worry?

 
 

It is surprising to see teenagers talking between them of cyberaddiction. They are sharp on this matter and do not hesitate to qualify the more addicted of “NO LIFE”. What teenagers think about cyberaddicition However they are not necessarily preoccupied, neither aware of the time they spend in front of the computer. More and more admit getting up at night to chat or play…without being considered cyberaddicted. Some of them are also able to distinguish between schooltime and vacation time, when they usually spend more time in front of the screens.

 

 
 

What are the next prevention activities you plan to organize?

 
 

Action Innocence carries on its activities in schools. We are thinking of developing new prevention modules to follow the evolution of the use of new technologies by children and teenagers.

 

Guest : Véronique Fima-Fromager
Director
Organisation Action Innocence France
Journalist : Pauline Boinot, M.Sc.

 

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