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Teens, Internet and Emotional Neglect

If a parent were to deny their child or teen food, most people would agree that the parent was guilty of neglect. If they were to deliberately take food away, for example as punishment, we might go further and call this abuse.

But what do we call it when a depressed, suicidal teenager depends on the Internet for emotional support and the parent takes their Internet away?

Sadly, we at EQI know that this actually happens, and more often than most people would ever imagine. This week alone three teens have told us their parents have taken away their Internet all together, stopped them from going online when they need to, or blocked the chat group which they rely on for emotional support.

Currently, such abuse of power by parents is still legal in every country we know of. We would like to raise the public's awareness of this and contribute to a campaign to get the laws changed.


January 31, 2010


2006 writing about two UK teens who met

Note: Stopping a teenager from communicating with their friends may be legally considered emotional neglect. Vanessa Gardianos writes:

...emotional neglect becomes relevant when parents ignore or reject their child or isolate him or her from interacting with other children or adults (Italics added)


Update - Feb 8, 2010

Here is a letter from one of the paents of a teen we referred to above:

Mr. Hein,

I will ask you politely to discontinue any email communication with my daughter

____ _______   We are taking steps to block internet sites which you frequent.  More communication with our daughter will mean additional site block.

Thank you.

____ ____, MD

Ironically on the same day we also received a letter from another parent of teenagers thanking us for our work!

Hi Steve,  

I have not had the chance to read everything on your website but, would be happy to offer my feedback. 

I agree with everything I have read so far.  I also shared it with a friend who has 4 kids and she was also thrilled about your site.   

Here is part of a chat about the parents who blocked their daughter from the chat support group

PV: did u ever talk to _____?
rbxx: yeah but she cant come on anymore
rbxx: her mom blocked it
PV: yeah... and her dad sent us a letter!
rbxx: oh wow....about what?
PV: ill show it to u...
PV: jas... (that means just a sec :) )
rbxx: ok
PV: here it is...
PV: http://www.eqi.org/teens_internet_emotional_neglect.htm
rbxx: wow....
PV: yeah... how do u feel when u read that?
rbxx: idk....
PV: yeah
PV: i know... its not a good feeling though i bet
rbxx: yeah...
rbxx: and i miss talking to her
PV: yeah. i feel sad about it.
PV: what do u think of parents having the legal power to stop their teenagers from getting emotional support?
rbxx: i think that it is messed up....i mean it's a good thind to get emotional support and it helps us get through things in are life that are hard and for are parents to have the power to take that way....it's wrong...

Another chat about RHM's parents stopping her from getting emotional support online

PV (04:38:53 AM): can u also give pple ____'s email address
PV (04:39:01 AM): she asked us to do that before her father wrote to us
PV (04:39:25 AM): of course he is reading her mail but i think shes still getting it
bec (04:41:10 AM): I don't have her email
PV (04:41:21 AM): okill get it...
PV (04:42:37 AM): _______@yahoo.com
bec (04:46:43 AM): Wait wait. So the person whose father took away her internet in that EQI article you sent me... That is her?... ____?
PV (04:47:00 AM): yep
bec (10:48:05 PM): I am very sad at this revelation.
PV (10:48:13 PM): yeah me too. it is almost like someone dying.

Some things she said in the chat

We will be adding some of the last few things we could save from the chat history before ___ was stopped from talking to her friends. We want to show people what kind of person she is....ie funny, caring, smart.

Here is one example of what she said:

well i can send lots of hugs (its magic dont try this at home) *hug* SWISH!!!

PV (04:38:21 AM): say did u used to talk to Anna?
jake (04:40:04 AM): yeah. she was nice but I heard her parents blocked her from chatting
jake (04:40:12 AM): Alanna's parents did too :(
PV (04:40:20 AM): did u read this?
PV (04:40:22 AM): http://www.eqi.org/teens_internet_emotional_neglect.htm
jake (04:40:33 AM): no, but i am now
PV (04:40:39 AM): ok
jake (04:41:23 AM): yeah, that sucks
jake (04:41:43 AM): my mom would block this site if she knew about it
jake (04:42:06 AM): but luckily she doesnt
PV (04:42:55 AM): why do u think she would block it?

jake (04:43:15 AM): because she thinks sites about depression are bad
jake (04:43:48 AM): a couple times she got on my computer and saw sites about depression and got angry at me
jake (04:44:07 AM): my parents really dont understand depression at all

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What not to do..

Here is a letter I got from a mother when I showed her Doug's email. Doug said his mothe was threatening to take away his Internet completely because he "spends too much time on it." But Doug says his online friends have helped keep him from killing himself for the past three years.

From an enlightened mom

I had to learn quick smart when my son became suicidal when he was about 13, started cutting, using drugs etc.  At the time I felt it was a ‘behaviour management issue’  (ie:  that we simply needed to punish him by taking away things that meant a lot to him eg: his computer/phone).  All that did was make him more disconnected, more deeply depressed, gave him more reason to cry, more reason to smoke pot and more reason to distance himself from us!!  But I realised it wasn’t going to be solved by ‘discipline’ (asserting the authority of taking away his computer) but through open hearted communication about our unmet needs .. both his AND mine.