What are some of the common signs that your children may be screen addicts and what can you do to limit their screen time?
Children, just like adults, tend to spend a little too much time on their phones. Who can blame them? We, grown-ups, often do that ourselves, after all. However, sometimes ‘a little too much time’ becomes ‘far too much time’, and a habit becomes an addiction. In fact, a recent poll found that almost one-half of parents feel that their children are “addicted” to their smartphones and tablets. In addition, one in three parents admitted that they themselves are hooked on screens.
Now, what are some of the signs suggesting that your child is a screen addict?
- Firstly, it is important to be on the lookout for signs that your children are becoming so immersed in the online world that they begin to lose interest in real life activities. In extreme cases, children might even try to avoid face-to-face contact with their friends, in favor of exclusively digital interaction on messaging apps and social media.
- Another red flag is if your children only appear happy when they are spending their time in front of a screen, be it a phone or a computer, and any attempt to limit their usage leads to conflict or a belligerent reaction. Try using technology, such as parental control apps, to spot the problem in its early stages.
- Are digital activities harming your children’s relationships with their siblings or friends? Living in the virtual world can also lead to difficulties in children’s social lives outside of home, so be wary of them distancing themselves from those around them. While time isn’t the only factor to consider, children spending more and more of their lives on social media is often an indicator of a developing technology addiction.
What can you do if your child is responding touchily or aggressively when the topic of digital devices comes up? Below, we suggest a few tips.
- Probably the most important thing to remember is to never give up on communication. Kids can get defensive if it’s suggested that they spend too much time on digital devices, and it can be tempting to assume that they know more about the digital world than you do. However, leaving them to manage their online behavior alone is a mistake; kids need your guidance online as much as they do when it comes to real life. Maintain dialogue with your children and do what you can to guide them through the digital experience, just as you might do when talking about how to deal with their friends at school.
- It is also crucial to build trust and understanding. It is only by establishing a relationship of confidence that a parent can position themselves as the person that their child can turn to if anything bad happens. Being dictatorial will often do nothing but force bad behavior into hidden corners.
- If you feel that your children are overusing their device, only take it away from them as a last resort. Instead, suggest practical steps that will help to limit how much they use it. For example, uninstalling some of the social media or messaging apps on a tablet or smartphone can limit the temptation to constantly look at the device. Limiting the notifications on these apps is another way of reducing a phone’s alluring pull.
- Consider using parental control apps, which are equipped with a range of useful features. Not only do these tools enable you to shield kids from harmful content, but they can also keep activity logs as well as enable you to decide which apps can be used and when they can be used.
- Lastly, plan short breaks from technology. A week or a weekend without a mobile phone or tablet can be beneficial for both children and parents. If you decide to give it a try, plan accordingly and prepare a lot of engaging activities that will keep you busy and the technology out of reach.
A parting thought
Lead by example, and make sure that your own behavior encourages healthy use of technology. If you are picking up your smartphone every two minutes, a child is likely to mimic that behavior, laying the foundations for an unhealthy habit. Keep your own digital consumption under control and be a good role model for your kids not only when it comes to the use of technology. In other words, model what you want to see.