Reigning in online time

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If you type in "Addicted to the ... " in Google, take a guess what the genius search engine predicts will be your next words. Outranking "outdoors," "therapy," and "gym" is "the Internet." That doesn't necessarily indicate the highest incidents of addiction, but it does signal what people are most interested in reading about.

The Internet has become an indispensable mainstay in our lives -- a tool that has found its way into carrying out dozens of tasks and actions, both trivial and consequential.

For kids and adults, it's easy to lose track of time spent following link to link, checking on the status of every Facebook friend, and watching home-spun YouTube videos.

In a recent post, the New York Times' Learning Network recently posed the ubiquitous question to its readers: "are you addicted to the Internet?" in its Student Opinion section. The question came on the heels of a study released by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine examining how the use of Internet affected anxiety levels in high school students in Guanghzou, China.

The post received the range of responses you might expect -- everything from forgetting to go to bed at night when becoming ensconced online, to being able to walk away from the computer when something important came up.


What I found most useful was a suggestion by one of the responders: self-regulate with tools like iFreeFace. The UK-based company allows anyone -- parents and kids alike -- to limit the time they spend on websites they choose, and to send reminders of other responsibilities that need attention.

You'll find a comprehensive list of other similar types of software, many of which also monitor content and include all types of parental controls, reviewed by PC Magazine here.