Addiction to smartphones or computers to communicate, get information, for entertainment, or to complete day-to-day chores is quite common. After all, resorting to digital-era technology is not only the swiftest way to all sort of information at just a touch of a button but also the easiest way to get all sorts of things done—from paying bills to ordering stuff online and to what not. Although our reliance on phones and computers is growing day-by-day, it is, at the same time, worrying to see children as young as three, playing games and watching videos on phones for hours. The fact that too much of screen time is detrimental to a child’s growing brain cannot be overstated.
Too much of screen time also interferes with child’s performance at school. It has been reported that Children who use smartphones at an early age have difficulty socializing and have delayed communication. Those who are in school and spend too much time on these gadgets have also been found to spend less time in playing outside and are also at greater risk of cyber-bullying. However, in today’s time, it is not that easy and simple for parents to restrain their kids from using phones and other such devices since everyone around them is using phones, tablets, or computers and sometimes children need information as well from the web to complete their school projects. In fact, teachers too these days, communicate through whatsapp rather than providing the information in students’ diary, which makes avoiding smartphones all the more difficult.
Research has shown that addiction to technology can be as severe as any other addictions. And so parents are often confronted with the question as to what should be the right age to introduce their kids to these gadgets. Well the answer to this question is not that straight or simple as every child has his or her maturity level. Yet, it can be said that the later the better; the more you can delay the better it is. At least wait until your child is in eighth grade or middle school. Even then you need to first set some rules regarding the use. You can also start by buying your child a basic phone rather than a smartphone.
We sometimes see parents giving their 2- or 3-year-old kids phones while eating out, or while parents are watching movies in the hall, their reasoning being that the kid would get distracted and wouldn’t disturb or that the kid throws tantrum to get the phone. Well, this is a completely wrong logic; You don’t give your child matchsticks, knife, or scissors to play with, when he or she throws a tantrum for it, then why giving in when your child demands your phone. May be some parents don’t really understand the dangers of using cell phones at such an early age or perhaps sometimes they are simply too tired to attend to their child. In such cases, giving their phone seems right to them and more like a convenient option. But they don’t actually realize that this comes under irresponsible parenting. Parents need to understand that the earlier the child starts using phones and other such devices, the higher the possibility of getting addicted to these devices in later ages. Besides, too much screen time is one of the leading causes of illnesses related to sedentary lifestyle. Obesity among young kids has been found to be because they don’t include enough physical activities in their routine or because they eat while watching TV or videos on phone or while playing video games.
Here’s how you can help your child get rid of or prevent his or her digital addiction:
1. Set family rules: Before you introduce your kids to devices like smartphones, tablets, or laptops, set some rules regarding the use of such devices. Set screen time in advance. Tell your children beforehand the purpose for which they can use these devices, and under what conditions they can lose access to them. These rules will be more effective if you involve your child too in the process.
2. Start with the basics: If your child demands a phone because all his/her friends have one, then you can start with basic phone models that can be used for communication purpose. Instead of smartphone, get him a simple basic mobile phone. Alternatively, you can lend your phone to help your child exchange messages between or make a call to his or her friend.
3. Don’t substitute toys with smartphones: These days children start using digital devices at a very early age, all because their parents use these devices as substitutes to toys. Remember, use of such devices is as harmful to a 2-3 year old as it is to older children. Never make it a habit to use smartphone as pacifier for your children. Instead carry their favorite toy along and let them play with it.
4. Encourage outdoor activities: One of the major drawbacks of using such devices is that children start spending less time in outdoor activities and become glued to these devices. A healthy and effective way to avoid this is by scheduling a regular outdoor activity as part of the child’s daily routine. It would be much better if you too take part in such activities.
5. Set an example: Remember! children see what their parents do. So you too need to set an example for your child. If you tell your children to stop spending too much time on phones, or tablets, while you yourself are busy on the phone all the time, they are most likely not going to listen to you. Therefore, if you want your children to follow screen time rules, you need to follow them yourself as well.
6. Set family values: You need to discuss with your children the place these devices have in your family’s value system. Since there will come a time when your child might tell you that all his or her friends have smartphones and that their parents don’t restrict them from using these devices. At such instances, your family values will help you and your child deal with these pressures to conform to the society.
7. Give them desktop: There comes a time when your child actually needs access to internet in order to complete his or her school projects and other such activities. Besides, one cannot deny the fact that internet is the quickest way to get access to knowledge and information. Therefore, if you truly feel that your child needs access to internet, give them a desktop instead of smartphone. Desktops have been found to be less addictive since they require sitting at the same place. An added benefit is that parental monitoring is much easier on desktop.
8. Communicate: It is really important that your children understand that the rules are imposed not to keep them from progressing further, but for their own good. Communicate to your children why you don’t want to encourage device usage; especially when other parents have already started giving their children smartphones or other such devices. Your children must understand that you are not against technology, but you are also aware of the dangers of technology usage and technology addiction. Getting this message across is very important and it will also help your children understand your point of view. Your children will understand that your rules are not just mindless authority assertion but rather a carefully designed system to keep them safe and healthy.
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