Is gadget use harmful to kids? How can we best regulate its use while also preventing addiction in children? This blog addresses such issues that bewilder parents
What is gadget addiction?
It is no exaggeration to say that gadgets have now become an inevitable part of our lives. But as they say, too much of anything is harmful, and so are gadgets! Gadget addiction is defined as excessive usage of devices that have a negative impact on one’s health and well-being.
Why are children addicted to gadgets?
Children learn things more quickly today. Unlike in the past, everyone in a house owns a smartphone now. So kids become familiar with gadgets because of this easier access to their parents’ or siblings’ phones. In most households, parents report that using phones or laptops helps in feeding their otherwise reluctant child or to pacify a crying baby. In addition, the colourful and highly stimulating visuals they watch further make them addicted to these gadgets – be it playing games, watching videos or connecting with their friends online.
How do gadgets affect a child’s mental health?
It has been observed that children experience anger, nervous breakdown or anxiety when they are not able to use the phone, for instance, due to low phone battery, poor signal etc. They lose interest in socialising, physical play and other activities. Excessive screen exposure can cause speech delays, sleep disturbances, isolation and depression. It can also diminish attention, creativity and problem-solving abilities.
How do I know if my child is addicted to Gadgets?
Nomophobia or smartphone addiction is the fear of having to stay beyond mobile phone accessibility. This is widely seen in children as well as youth today. Becoming frustrated when asked to keep away their phones at bedtime could be a sign of withdrawal. Other red flags include their tendency to lie about how much time they’ve spent using phones or sneaking gadgets after ensuring that the parent would not know. If watching TV makes them feel better when having a bad day, then it could be an addiction symptom.
How do you regulate a child’s use of technology at every age?
Children should have no screen time up to two years of age, instead playing with others and physical toys helps develop their social and communication skills. Between the ages of two to five years, one hour of gadget usage can be allowed with parental supervision. Screen time should not exceed more than two hours for kids up to seventeen years.
How to stop my child’s addiction to gadgets?
There are various ways to overcome gadget addiction. Set a time limit for screen time each day. It would be useful to have kids abstain from using gadgets at least one day a week and instead utilise the time for bonding with family. Strive to instill an interest in the child to engage in activities like board games, crafts, etc., at home. Praise your child whenever he or she prioritises other important activities over screen time. Most importantly, parents should be role models by practising what they preach.
Tips to avoid gadgets exposure
- Try and limit the number of gadgets at home
- Ensure that your child views child-friendly content in media
- Maintain gadget-free zones in the house, e.g. bedroom
- Parents themselves should lead by example and restrict phone time
- Outdoor activities would keep children distracted and also make them physically fit
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)
1. What are the symptoms of Addiction to Electronic Gadgets?
- Eye strain
- Neck pain
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (wrist pain)
- Sleep disturbances
2. What is age-appropriate screen time?
Less than 2 years: Zero screen time except for video-calling parents or other family members
2-5 years: Less than one hour of screen time that includes co-viewing with parents or family members.
6-17 years: Two hours or less, except for homework.
3. Is there a link between screen time and learning difficulties?
According to the findings from recent research conducted at the University of Calgary, an important contributing factor to learning delays is excessive screen time.
4. What is the impact of excessive screen time on the brain?
It leads shrinking of the brain cortex, which is responsible for critical thinking and reasoning.
Ann Sara Kottoor, M.Sc. Psychology,