Teachers are often aware of how integral the internet and mobile phones are in the social life of children and young people. Social networking, gaming, content creation and sharing platforms offer an impressive array of options for children of all ages to communicate with friends and family.

The internet provides educational advantages too, including research sources and video guides on a vast range of topics, as well as the ability to share across a range of platforms. Some sites are also helpful for students experiencing challenges with learning difficulties, social relationships, mental or physical health and disabilities.

The number of hours that young people spend online can vary significantly between individuals. It can be difficult for parents and educators to identify an appropriate number of hours spent online as individual circumstances will vary.

What are the warning signs of excessive use?

The following indicators may be signs of excessive internet use by your students:

  • ongoing headaches or eye strain and complaints of sleep disturbance
  • online activities interfering with their health and wellbeing, schoolwork and relationships
  • spending increasing amounts of time online
  • constantly talking about particular online programs, such as a gaming site
  • withdrawal from their ‘real world’ friends and activities
  • attributing more importance to online activities and contacts
  • a decline in academic performance
  • their parents reporting difficulties in keeping their child off the internet
  • reports that students have been staying up well into the night or sneaking out of bed to access the internet.

Some of the indicators listed above may not be due to excessive internet use—they may be developmentally appropriate behaviours for young people, particularly teens, for whom their main connection to friends is the internet. They may also be signs that a young person is experiencing more general social issues, or indicators of other significant issues such as cyberbullying, offline relationships and mental health.

Exploring any significant concerns with students and their parents is an important first step towards identifying issues and developing effective strategies to overcome them.

Managing the risks

As teachers and schools can help students to manage the risks associated with excessive internet use by: 

  • implementing an online safety curriculum
  • integrating educational resources such as #GameOn into the school curriculum to equip students with practical online safety skills and knowledge
  • ensuring an open dialogue with parents to manage any issues that may arise.

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