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The Internet is changing our moods, and our brains

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

The key to improving your mood may be in unplugging from the internet.

Our Cyber Expert, Theresa Payton, shared this information about the results of a new study she has seen:

A study by US News Health found that teens with heavy internet usage had a direct link to depressed feelings. 

It indicates receiving and answering a text, tweet or post results in a hit of dopamine.  It literally hits that motivation and reward section in your brain and gives you a charge.  

China, Taiwan and South Korea (where especially kids under the age of 10 are affected) have accepted "Internet Addiction Disorder" as a psychological diagnosis.  The US is also concerned, enough that it will be included as a disorder this year and is covered in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-V). 

Researchers in one study in China tracked 1,041 teenagers, finding out how much they used the Internet.  They asked questions such as "How often do you feel depressed, moody, or nervous when you are offline, which goes away once you are back online?"

1.  Who participated?

100% were teens.  94% did not fall into power internet users.  6% did.

2.  At the 9 month check point of the study group, the teens in the 6% power user group showed a 1.5 times more likelihood of registering as "clinically depressed"

3.  Who is "at risk"?  Teens that spend more than 5 hours a day "digitally connected"

4.  Every age is at risk. 

5.  How can you diagnose it?  This isn't easy to track and hard to put limits on especially with school homework moving to the digital world.  So we have highlighted trouble signs to look for.

THERESA'S ADDICTION QUIZ

1.  Can your teen go one hour without checking text messages, emails, the internet?  If the hour is tough for them to get through, they may have a problem.

2.  Agitation, sadness, or anger after disconnecting may mean they were immersed in the digital world for too long that day.

3.  Have you noticed that when your kid is digitally connected that they are in a bubble but seem to be upbeat but the minute you tell your kid to disconnect that he or she becomes agitated, depressed, sanguine, melancholy? 

HOW TO COMBAT?

1.  Digital free time:  agree with your teen to digital free down time before bed; at least 1 hour before they go to bed.

2.  Digital free zones:  keep the internet connected devices out of the bedroom so beeps and chirps don't tempt them or interrupt sleep

3.  Trust but verify:  Check data usage reports from your internet services provider or smart phone provider

4.  Family options:  Talk to your providers to see if you have the ability to place data or time limits on internet access

5.  Digital detox:  Talk as a family about digital detox.  Where possible, agree to "unplug" for 24 hours or more.  You'll be amazed at the results!

Web Resources:

If you think a loved one has an internet addiction problem, click here

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