Like the majority of young people in the world, you likely use the Internet daily, either for work or leisure. The Internet has become a vital part of life and is incredibly useful. However, the Internet can also be harmful. Being critical of the content you consume is vital to protecting your mental health. A simple Instagram post or a twitter thread fueled by recent “cancel culture" can be damaging. Besides triggering content, Internet addiction has also exponentially increased in recent years, affecting not only adults, teens, and even toddlers.
The Internet Makes Life Easy
There is certainly the possibility for negative consequences from accessing the Internet. However, the Internet can also provide many positive side effects. In one fell swoop you can check the weather, find a restaurant to go to if the weather is nice, determine if traffic is going to be a nightmare when travelling to that restaurant, and post on your social media about your meal. By creating ease in life, the Internet helps to relieve stress and make people feel more connected to the world. The ability to communicate with people you might never have met without the Internet helps people to create relationships. This also gives them access to support and confidence boosts they may not have gotten without the Internet.
How the Internet Can Affect Mental Health
Although useful, the ease the Internet provides has led to a major increase in cases of Internet Addiction in younger generations. The popularity of social media and Internet relationships led to a decline in people forming strong relationships in real life. Internet dependence also correlates to an increase in mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Loneliness is also common the longer someone stays online, which can fuel mental health issues.
Social media addiction specifically has also contributed to mental health problems in teens and young adults. The rise of self-made Instagram models and staged YouTube vlogs fools people into believing their life isn’t good enough compared to the people they see on social media. Internet addiction can also lead to poor academic performance, sleep problems, and increased poor decisions (such as gambling or pornography). Sadly, young children become affected by Internet addiction due to mood swings and tantrums as they spend more time online.
Browsing the Internet Safely
When using the Internet, you need to remember that not everything you might read or see is factual. Photo editing software like Photoshop and FaceTune have made changing one’s appearance incredibly simple. Also, there is no obligation to make realistic posts on social media. Keeping this in mind will help you to avoid letting social media control how you feel about yourself. Feel free to enjoy social media, but remember to do so critically. Make sure to take any post you scroll past with a grain of salt (even from friends and family).
How to Prevent Internet Addiction
The issues mentioned, especially starting at such a young age, are hard to avoid in this Internet focused age. However, there are some precautions you can take when using the Internet to avoid these side effects. One of the most important steps to take may seem obvious but limiting Internet access is important in preventing Internet addiction. Setting time limits on Internet access, especially at night, will greatly help in preventing an addiction and to help break habits. Limiting social media access and general time wasting on the Internet will also help to decrease the negative effects.
Creating a plan and sticking to it is necessary to avoid letting the Internet be a hindrance instead of an aid. The plan should be simple to follow and well-organized, so you aren’t tempted to stray from it. By setting specific times to use the Internet is the first step. Deciding how you will use the Internet during those times is the next step and will greatly help you avoid a problematic Internet addiction. Finally, sticking to your plan is the most important step in preventing an Internet addiction.
How to Break Internet Addiction
If you’ve already developed a poor habit or even an addiction to the Internet, you can break it. Like with any poor habit, you need to admit you have a problem first, and be able to accept you need to change your routine. With an open mind and a support network, you can arrange a plan similar to the plan described above for preventing the addiction in the first place. One common change people can employ to help break their habit is removing technology from the bedroom. Setting a cutoff time for your Internet usage is an excellent step towards breaking your Internet addiction, especially if you have friends and family who will encourage and support you.