We’re all a little guilty of spending too much time cradling our technology and not enough time engaging with family and friends. But how can you tell when a tech habit has reached another level? Here’s what to do if you suspect your child is addicted to technology.
How can you tell if they’re addicted?
There’s a few signs and symptoms to look out for when it comes to technology addictions and your kids.
1. Are you unable to get their attention away from their device?
2. Do they lack interest in non-tech activities? Especially ones they used to enjoy.
3. Do they exhibit bad behaviour when technology is taken away from them?
4. Are they showing signs of withdrawal? E.g. anxiety, distress, anger
If your child is showing more than one of these examples it’s likely they are too reliant on their technology. So what can you do about it?
Force them off the tech at least twice a week
You might not make many friends by forcing them to put down the technology, but even 2 evenings a week of other play is much better for their development. Both pretend play and physical activity are important for growing kids. Make Mondays and Wednesday tech-free evenings and find entertainment in other ways from imaginative play with a dollhouse to getting active on a backyard climbing frame.
Recognise the risk-factors
Katinda Ndola is an author, mentor and self-esteem champion who founded the Confidence and Self Esteem Strategy Program. She believes tech addiction is dangerous to kids if not dealt with quickly:
“They become anti-social, selfish, communication skills are not learnt and [it can] affect their lives in the long run, they lose the capacity to have commons sense because everything is virtual and unrealistic.
Encourage a strict time limit on technology, communicate the dangers of technology to their health and well being, make them understand the implications of not having a face to face style connection with family or friends and uplift them by focusing on what their greatness is, this works like magic believe me.”
Find more from Katinda on Facebook and Instagram.
Find creative solutions to get them tech-free
Author and parenting coach Elisabeth Stitt has read multiple books and studies on the effects of too much technology on children. Here’s her advice:
“The constant stimulation provides a chronic stressor which results in cognitive dysfunction, a poor sense of time, impaired social interactions and mood dysregulation. Of course, other factors could have such results, but if your kids are struggling with executive functioning skills (e.g. are disorganized, have poor time management, get easily distracted) or are anxious or depressed, one way to test whether electronic is the cause is to a) consider how easily your child lets you take away her devices and redirect her or even b) to do an Electronics-free challenge and cut out all electronics use for a week or even more.
From my own experience, before just taking electronics away, I would first start introducing what I call Equally Attractive Alternatives to Electronics. In other words, rather than snatching away the game boy and the ipad and then telling your kids to tough it out, start enticing them away from electronics with activities they might enjoy. Buy or borrow a new board game and announce a family tournament, stock up on arts and craft supplies and have a craft night, engage kids in prepping and cooking the family meals, encourage kids to re-engage with a musical instrument or to pick up their drawing pad.“
Find Elisabeth at Joyful Parenting Coaching, Twitter and Facebook.
Set their priorities straight
It’s a tech-focused world so getting them to give up the screens altogether is unrealistic at best. But you can make sure they have their priorities in the right order. For example, family time (such as at the dinner table) and studies should come first. Let them know they can have free tech time after dinner and as soon as their homework is finished. Safety is another top priority and we suggest implementing an open door policy.
Getting kids to put down the screens is a tall order but in the long run it’s the best thing for them. Combat their technology addiction and at the same time remind yourself it’s good to step away from the screens once in awhile.