Screen time addiction

August 09, 2023

What is technology addiction?

With each passing day, the world relies more on technology for our daily tasks. School work is digitized, and our relaxation time is often spent as hours on the phone, iPad or PS4/Xbox. We cannot deny that technology is ingrained in our everyday lives, but how do we know if it is an addiction?

How do I know if my child is addicted to technology? 

Kids spend increasing time on technology, but sometimes this goes above and beyond what is expected. Technology addiction is when your child’s use of technology becomes disruptive to both their and your life in a way that is not managed. Some signs of a technology addiction to look out for are:

  • Aggressive or emotional behaviour when unable to access technology – if you removed your child’s access to technology or the Wi-Fi is down and prevents them from accessing their games, your child may react disproportionately. They may have an aggressive outburst and scream, throw items, or become aggressive; they may cry or have significant anxiety when unable to access their device.
  • Almost instantaneous calm when reunited with the device – If your child calms down once given a device, it may be a sign they are reliant or addicted to their screen time.
  • Losing interest in other activities – A sign of internet addiction might be your child increasingly losing interest in other activities like sports, friends, or other hobbies. They may show increasing interest in screen time and prefer to spend hours on their device rather than with others.
  • Unable to communicate with them during screen time – are you finding it difficult or nearly impossible to talk to your child when they are using technology? Do they react angrily when you try to speak to them during screen time? If so, it might be a sign of technology addiction.

How can I manage screen time?

Don’t get rid of it all at once! Trying to cut your child off technology all in one go may lead to an aggressive response that lasts longer than anticipated. Your child may view this as a punishment and not understand why you set these boundaries. Instead, some ways to manage screen time include:

  • Slowly reduce screen time and create a written schedule of when screen time can occur and place it somewhere visible to your child. This may be an hour in the evening or in the morning.
  • Set tasks to be completed before screen time is allowed – on your screen time schedule, add a list of tasks that must be completed before screen time is allowed, such as schoolwork or chores.
  • Change the content – if your child is showing signs of significant technology addiction, managing screen time may be best done by replacing the content they are experiencing with something else. For example, if they appear addicted to a specific video game, say they are allowed screen time but for a different type of media such as a film or other games. Doing this will slowly reduce their interest in the game they wish to engage in.

Slowly introducing these ideas will help create a structure for managing your child’s screen time. It is crucial not to introduce all these changes at once may make your child stressed and anxious, leading to emotional outbursts. If your child continues to show addictive behaviours that disrupt the family dynamic and their quality of life, you may wish to consider seeking professional intervention.

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Pathological Demand Avoidance

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