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Children and Technology Addiction

There was a time when parents had a tough time getting their kids to come inside the house at a certain time. In this day and age, parents fight to get their kids to go outside and put down the electronic devices. The reliance upon technology is becoming increasingly evident, especially in our education system. As a parent of a teenager, I have witnessed the emphasis that is placed on kids being required to have access to electronic devices to complete school assignments.

Children and Cell Phones – When should kids go mobile?

Before diving into the addiction to technology, let’s discuss when should your kid go mobile. It’s hard enough keeping up with what kids are doing on game consoles, computers, tablets, and laptops, now you have to deal with children and cell phones. How do you determine the appropriate age of when to give a child a cell phone?

According to a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, the concentration should be taken away from the age factor and more focused on the child’s maturity level when it comes to understanding technology and the correlation with social awareness. However, on average a child is given a phone at 10.3 years of age. If you choose to allow your child access to a phone at a younger age, make sure that you do the following:

  • Monitor and track activity on the phone
  • Apply appropriate parental controls
  • Don’t allow the child to have constant access to the phone unsupervised.
  • Set rules, have them turn their phones in at a specific time every night.

Kids addicted to technology

Cell phones make it easier for a child to become addicted because they have consistent access to social media, the internet, and games. However, this doesn’t mean that a child wasn’t addicted before getting a cell phone. Many kids become glued to video game consoles or a television set. All of which have an immediate effect on the developing brain of a child. The biggest effect is the failure to differentiate between reality and make-believe.

Researchers say that kids addicted to technology comes from the release of endorphins and dopamine when playing video games or using social media. At the same time, they do stress that the excessive use of technology can be attributed to an underlying problem with your child. Studies have shown that kids with untreated ADHD and/or depression are more likely to become attached to technology. Once the kids were treated for their underlying mental health issues, the attachment to the technology decreased. The bottom line is that experts are suggesting that parents need to be prepared to address all the angles involved in the technology dependence in their kids.

Signs of addiction to technology

Some parents may question whether or not their child is addicted to technology. Here are some warning signs that you should look for:

Constant distraction by technology

Throws tantrums when they cannot access technology or use of their devices

Isolates themselves from others

Feels disconnected without their electronic device

Signs of aggressive behaviors when devices are inaccessible

Difficulties focusing or paying attention to anything other than their electronic devices

Difficulties sleeping due to electronic devices

How do parents contribute to their child’s technology addiction?

As parents, it is only natural to deny any involvement with a child’s negative behavior. However, parents can be the biggest influencers towards a child’s attachment to electronic devices. That doesn’t mean that you need to beat yourself up about it, however, recognize what can be done differently to prevent the promotion of this.

It’s never too late to reconstruct these behaviors positively. Here are some guidelines when attempting to redirect your child’s addiction or dependence to technology:

  • Base your screen time rules and limitations on the age and maturity level of your child.
  • Encourage other methods of stimulation to occupy your child if he/she is bored.
  • Spend more time with your child doing non-screen time activities, such as family game nights.
  • Monitor your use of technology- our habits tend to rub off on our children.
  • Turn off all electronic devices during mealtimes, when doing homework, or once a show is over.
  • Have a designated time every night when electronics should be turned off for the night.
  • Start setting boundaries and encourage educational content to be accessed on the phone or electronic device.

Experts are encouraging parents to sit down with their kids when they are accessing the internet, social media or using electronic devices. Setting an example for your child should start at a young age so that they understand the purpose of using electronic devices in moderation.

What’s considered the right amount and what harm does too much screen time do?

With the increasing amount of time spent using electronic devices, a child’s brain is unable to fully mature, because it’s not using all areas of the brain. Aside from decreasing the full functionality of their brain, the following are other dangers that excessive technology use is associated with:

Obesity

Behavioral issues including violence or aggressiveness

Lack of social skills

Lack of sleep or shorter times of sleep

Researchers have also stated that children that use technology in excess, tend to have problems with face-to-face interactions. Not to mention kids will lack the necessary skills needed to succeed in life. Although the world is rapidly becoming digitized, there still needs to be a balance with the use of electronic devices.

As a parent, how do you know what is the appropriate amount of screen time for your child? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, under the age of 2, the use of technology is highly discouraged. However, if a child between the ages of 18 months and 24 months is introduced to technology, it should not be a solo activity for the child. For children between the ages of 2-5, no more than 1-2 hrs a day should be dedicated to high-quality screen time. The younger kids should be encouraged to develop their creativity, practice sharing and being a leader through “free play”, with limited exposure to technology. Older kids should be encouraged to involve themselves with extracurricular activities that do not involve technology.

Kids between 5-11 years of age should be monitored and supervised with electronic devices to ensure that they are accessing age-appropriate material. Kids over the age of 11, should have some sort of privacy, provided they are doing the right thing. This means parents are advised to trust your kids and refrain from snooping until you are given a reason not to trust them.

Conclusion

Kids have become very dependent on technology, researchers say that 1 in 4 children are addicted to electronic devices and technology. Society as a whole continues to drill in the minds of kids at a young age the importance of embracing technology. Despite the many negative effects that technology has on the developing brains of kids, there are times when a moderate amount of screen time can be beneficial. It’s our job as parents to redirect and encourage our children to use technology sparingly. The best way to do this is by getting involved and staying involved with what your child is doing and what your child has access to do.