An alarming documentary recently aired on PBS called, Web Junkie. As disturbing as it is to watch, it should be considered mandatory viewing for any parent of a teen or pre-teen.

The documentary focuses on what happens in China when teens become addicted to playing video games or being online. The children are placed in a rehabilitation facility where they are weaned from their addiction, which the Chinese consider a major public health issue. The doc is an eye-opener for parents in any country whose children spend hours upon hours gaming or on the web.

An article in The New York Times delved deeper into the issue in the United States. According to the article, the Kaiser Family Foundation wrote in a 2010 article that, “The average eight to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours a day.”

Wow. Considering that our kids sleep seven or eight hours a day, that leaves only a few hours where our kids are awake and not consumed with media.

What is a parent to do? Lots. Here are some ways to get ahead of the problem before it happens.

1. Set Limits

Unlimited access to anything can be dangerous. Imagine what having unlimited access to the Internet or home videos can do to an impressionable child. Make sure that you set clear and fair ground rules on screen time and remember that there are many, many ways that your kids can get online. Also, it’s critical that once you set the rules, you must enforce them.

2. In the Bedroom

Experts say one of the most important aspects of this problem or other issues like strangers having access to your kids, is to keep the Internet out of your children’s bedrooms. That means limiting the amount of technology they can have in their room. For instance, some parents collect their child’s smartphones and tablets before bedtime. It can be tricky if your children are using their device for their homework, but in most cases it’s a good idea to police this closely.

3. Off Limits

Nowadays, our children grow up with the sense that the Internet is everywhere. And it is. Most places have WiFi and our smartphones can access the Internet virtually anywhere. But you might want to think about internet usage in the car, at restaurants or in church. There should be times and places where family time is sacrosanct.

4. Take Away Privileges

Is your child struggling with his grades? Refusing to do his homework? Defying your wishes to get a job? If so, then you might consider taking away his Internet and gaming privileges. Your children do not have a right to this technology; rather, it is your prerogative to allow it and dole it out as you see fit.

5. Not a Crutch

Many parents – myself included – have used television, smartphone, or tablet as a way to bring some much needed peace and quiet into our lives. It silences the kids and focuses them so that my wife and I can get a few things done with limited interruptions. To a point, that’s okay. But when used too often, it sends the message that watching endless videos or playing endless games is okay.

Sure, it takes more time, energy, and commitment to police our kids’ behavior 24/7 but that’s the price we have to pay to be attentive and dedicated parents.