I recently read an article on WebMD that discussed Internet addiction. Researchers examined the relationship between psychiatric symptoms and Internet addiction in 2,162 junior high students over a period of two years. About 11% of study participants were classified as having an Internet addiction in the initial assessment. This is an alarmingly high statistic.
The Internet can be used as a serious escape from reality. Just as an addict takes drugs or alcohol to mask personal pain or escape reality, one can hide in the electronic world to avoid real life.
Watch your kids to see if the amount of time on the Internet is excessive. Does your Internet addict forgo other pleasurable opportunities to engage electronically? Is he unpleasant when not engaged with a game controller? A temporary obsession might be developmentally appropriate, especially if a there is a new found game or website, but long hours spent in front of a screen might be a sign of addiction.
Regulate all screen time including computers, texting, TV, and video games. Make sure these screens are in an easy place for passive monitoring. Talk to your kids about their Internet use and contact a professional if you think there is a problem.