When she called the hotline, the mother seemed very anxious and depressed (she later said that she has a mood disorder). Due to her son’s frequent online gaming, she felt that the situation was quite serious. She mentioned that besides plummeting grades, her son would skip classes because of all-night online gaming. He also quarreled with the mother. Her son had a furious temper and when the mother asked the son to stop going online, the son would use profanities and swear at the mother, which left the mother feeling heartbroken.
The social worker calmed the mother’s emotions and then discussed the reasons behind the son’s behavior. The social worker tried to understand the youth’s emotion and learning needs. Both social worker and the mother brainstormed a workable discipline method and rehearsed it with the mother over the phone.
Finally, the mother decided to begin the change with herself. She tried to stabilize her emotions when the son was reacting intensely and recognized the needs of online learning.
The mother said that her son had slowly begun to exercise self-control in going online. Not only that, but the conflicts between them have decreased, and there’s no longer any more class skipping.
A father called in to the hotline claiming that his son always played with smartphones and online games to the point of being “addicted.” He has no interest in studying, which caused his grades to drop. Not only that, but he also failed many subjects. He had no direction for his future. As his son was going to senior high school in the coming year, the father was very worried that his son would have limited choices, which would further reduce the son’s motivation for learning.
Through the conversation with the father, the social worker noticed that the father always compared his eldest son, who has excellent grades, to the youngest son, who is not motivated in his studies. He hoped that the youngest son’s test rankings could be improved by over 10 places in a short period of time.
Besides consulting the father to negotiate with his son on computer usage methods and strategies, the social worker also explained to the father on how to adjust his expectations for his youngest son. Frequent comparison between the two sons would add to the pressure on the youngest son and in return would increase his feelings of frustration. The father should set up a realistic goal with his youngest son based on his previous performance and look for his strengths outside of studying, so that he could have a well-rounded development.
The father understood that the relationship with his son would be affected if the situation continues and agreed that he would try to adjust the expectations and direction together with his son.
As a social worker responsible for answering the hotline, I have had impression of many parents and I now share three stories about using Internet on smart phones.
There was this boy who had started to play online games since he was in primary school. His mother knew of it and set password to lock the home computer and he could only unlock the computer when the parents is around. As he could not gather the points needed to go onto the next level, the son gave up on the online PC game and turned to using smartphones. Again, this raised the mother’s concern about her son using the smart devices. When the social worker asked the mother what is her expectation, she said, “I hope he resumes playing the computer. He could still use the computer for online learning but smartphone is only for entertainment. Moreover, the screen is smaller and is not good for the eyes. It gives worse impact on his health than the computer!”
An anxious parent called up to express his problem, of which his children had been playing smart phone games until the smartphone is nearly glued to his hands. He said that his son always download different game applications and he felt that his son is already addicted to the games. Besides that, the parent also complained that his children was reluctant to do his homework, gave up totally in his studies, and is even motionless even when he obtained zero in his examinations. The parent had tried to set a smart phone usage schedule with the children but it failed to work out because after a few days of schedule implementation, his children will keep screaming, throws tantrum and even throws things at other people. He would also hit people to ‘vent’ his dissatisfaction. The parent was out of ideas most of the times and gave in to his children in the end.
The mother described her children as “hard to deal with” as she had no idea on how to handle her children’s Internet smartphone addiction. The officer asked the mother about her children’s online habit in details, such as:
“Do you know the exact duration of your children spend online?”
“Do you know what applications did your children downloaded from smartphone?”
“Do you know what online games are your children playing?”
“Do you know whether your children is getting to know new friends online?”
Most of the responses turned out to be “I don’t know” and “I need to work and I’m very busy. In short, I see him playing on the phone from dusk to dawn and he is not doing his homework. He is just playing all the time! Miss, I’m really running out of ideas on how to control him, please teach me how to cure him!”
“Net- addiction”- Although there are common symptoms where one could refer to, but every parent’s level of acceptance is different. Parents would set their expectations on their children, therefore when their children encounters these online games where parents took as “bad hobbies”, parents are left feeling helpless. Using the 3 parents above as examples, one of them had no knowledge on their children’s habit, the other one could not manage the children’s behavior and the last one seems to have early prevention to avoid the children to get addicted but when the children falls unto a worse choice, they rather their children turn back to their previous addiction. This may be showing that the parents lack of sense of sensitivity towards the bad impacts of smart devices usage on their children, and also lack of communication techniques with their children.
Healthy Net Tips:
- Pay more attention to your children, communicate with them at appropriate times and take initiative to learn more about the Internet to close the digital gap between your children and you.
- Although there is no standardized timing for smartphone online usage, but you could set a schedule for using the Internet. Do learn more about your children’s needs before negotiating a workable and reasonable schedule agreed by both parties.
- The Online and smartphone usage contract that is set up with your children must clearly list down all rewards and penalties. The contract will lose its function if it is not executed. However, do give appropriate compliments to the children if they could obey the rules to encourage the child to continue the good effort.
Note: More information about Healthy Net could be obtained from this website or kindly call “Healthy Use of Internet- Hotline and Online Support Service” at 2922 9222 to get connected with the registered on-duty social workers.
Hong Kong Family Welfare Society Registered Social Worker,
There was a single mother who felt she struggled to take care of and educate both of her sons, especially the eldest son who spent a lot of time online after school. She had no resources or methods to help her son to study. Due to the lack of social and emotional support, she was under tremendous pressure and easily lost her temper when her son defied her, which has had a negative impact on the relationship between her and her son.
After the social worker understood the situation, he first soothed the mother’s emotions so that she felt supported. Following that, he helped the mother to handle her emotion and analyze the reasons and the impact of discipline. At the same time, he also introduced local community activity resources to increase the social support. Not only that, but after understanding her son’s learning habit and the online situation, he introduced volunteer tutoring resources to her eldest son.
The mother felt that her pressure had been slightly reduced and continues to learn about how to teach her children. This case is still an ongoing case.
In the “WebOrganic” program, we regularly contact different members to introduce our hotline counseling service and provide follow up calls if there was any issues induced regarding the use of computer/digital device.
We approached a mother and she expressed that her son did not perform well in his studies and goes online frequently. She felt worried and helpless. After a few times of going through the hotline counseling, the social worker perceived that her son was having a hard time keeping up with his course due to his weak academic foundation. He had also encountered emotional instability due to academic stress problems. Gradually, he lost motivation in learning and spent a lot of time on online gaming.
We then provided information about volunteer tutoring to the mother and encouraged her to contact the school social worker to follow up with her son’s emotional and academic learning issues.
Recently, we contacted the mother , and she expressed that the school social worker arranged some after-school tutoring classes with the teacher and provide emotional support and to herson seems to be more motivated in learning and the time spent on going online has been reduced.