Iris Lin

Real Life Stories of Change

Helping Others Overcome Excessive Screen Use – Iris Lin

Know someone who is screen-obsessed? Assistant Director of Fei Yue Community Services, Iris Lin, shares some ways you can help.

Tell-tale signs

Using the internet is part and parcel of our everyday life – it is used for research and doing up assignments by students and working adults alike. However, when one’s internet usage interferes with one’s sleep, meal times, and work or studies, it has become ‘excessive,’ according to Iris Lin, who is also a member of the Media Literacy Council.

“When a person constantly complains of tiredness or a lack of sleep, or when there is sudden weight gain or weight loss, these are tell-tale signs,” said Iris.

“The person may often appear distracted. Whenever there is free time, the person will immediately be on a smart device.”

While most of us are accustomed to seeing our friends, colleagues, neighbours or family occasionally indulging in a game or drama binge-watching, Iris warned that there may be some health implications of excessive screen use.

Effects on the brain

Extensive research has uncovered that excessive screen use may lead to internet addiction, which is associated with structural and functional changes in the brain.

“A person’s emotions, alertness, decision-making ability, and cognitive control may be affected. In extreme cases, a person may require medical treatment to regain his or her health,” she said.

This is a good enough reason to intervene and help someone unplug.

The intervention process

From Iris’ experience, overcoming excessive screen use takes time. Parents and family need to understand that it’s not easy and the results will not be immediate. Besides assessing the motivation level of the web-addicted individual towards change, and not forcing them to change if they don’t want to, Iris will also work on building a relationship and trust with the individual.

“If the individual has interests, we will try to engage the individual in his or her interest areas. For a start, we will try to keep the offline activity shorter in the beginning of our intervention so that the individual knows that there will still be time to go online,” she explained.

“When trust is established, we engage them in other activities, and see if he or she is motivated to change. When that person has a goal in mind, such as passing an exam, or reaching new heights, the chance of overcoming excessive screen use is usually higher.”

What can you do for a friend or a loved one?

In a personal capacity, how can anybody who isn’t a trained professional help out a friend or a loved one to better balance their internet usage? Well, Iris has some great tips for that:

  • Set clear boundaries and time limits, especially with young children.
  • Use tools or apps to help monitor online usage.
  • Be encouraging. The online world is extremely attractive, and an easy escape from the real world if the individual feels put down by others.
  • Be creative in your engagement with the individual. Iris found that engaging the individual in sports, the arts, music, fashion or cooking have been helpful in weaning them off excessive screen time.
  • Build trust and a genuine relationship with the individual.

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