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MICHELLE WILLITSManaging Editor
RON JOOSSASSISTANT EDITOR
ALEX MCVEIGHSTAFF NEWSWRITER
TOM SAKASHSTAFF NEWSWRITER

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Consumer
Excessive Internet use harmful to teens
ROCKVILLE, Md. (3/11/09)--Parents face daunting challenges when guiding their children’s study and work habits. Today, when you can carry the Internet in your pocket, a virtual smorgasbord of online activities is tempting. While recent studies indicate that teenage social networking leads to higher quality friendships that buffer them from stress, there’s more to the story (Science Daily March 3). A 24/7 Internet connection easily can overstimulate and overstress young minds. The result is interference with important relationships, sleep patterns and grade point averages. Clinical psychologist Dr. Maressa Hecht Orzack, director and founder of the Computer Addiction Study Center at Harvard's McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., compares excessive Internet activity to drug use. Rena Crispin, managing editor of the Credit Union National Association’s Googolplex offers parents guidelines for raising children to be teenagers with healthy Internet habits:
* Make Internet use a family affair. Place your computer in a common area where you can monitor activity. While your youngsters are still children, ask them to teach you the games they play and share their favorite websites. That way, you’ll establish your authority to monitor their online activity later. * Set house rules. Decide on the number of hours per day your children and teenagers are allowed online. (Don’t count legitimate online homework against the recreational limit.) And don’t merely forbid them to go online. Be alert for new ways to engage them in a variety of fun offline activities. * Resist using the Internet as a babysitter. Avoid using it to keep young children occupied while you do housework. Instead, involve your kids with housework sometimes, and be firm about giving them “alone time” to play and dream at other times. Consider bartering non-Internet play dates with other families, giving both sets of parents regular free time. * Seek help. The National Cyber Security Alliance at staysafeonline.org and Computer Addiction Services at computeraddition.com offer valuable tips.
For more information, read “Keep Kids Safe Online” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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