Gadget addiction in kids
“As technology is developing at such a pace and is increasingly entwined in our children’s lives, education and future, we need to be vigilant about when a child’s gadget dependence becomes ‘gadget addiction,” says Dubai-based Life Coach, Sunaina Vohra. Find out the measures you can take if your child suffers from gadget addiction
Sunaina Vohra, a Master Life Coach and Certified Parent Coach, runs Athena Life Coaching, and has been working with both children and adults since 2010. She says that ‘gadget addiction’ is becoming more endemic with the children of today.
Unlike our generation, who were the inventors of the devices, our children are the ones who are enjoying the fruits of our labour. Unfortunately, the fruits are beginning to poison the young generation with various mental and physical health issues arising from addiction to the devices, observes Vohra. Children are often clinging to their gadgets like fish to water – step back and think about it, as this really is not healthy.
PARENTS ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM
I have many frustrated parents who come to me tearing out their hair about how to get their kids off their devices – laptops, phones, iPads, gaming devices and so forth. And with the advent of the summer holidays, gadget use has the potential to get completely out of control, particularly since it can sometimes be tempting to keep them quiet and amused during the holidays.
Unfortunately, what parents do not realise is that they are often the source of their own misery when they complain that they cannot control their children’s gadget use, or are being ignored. When children demand things, parents often give in and what starts off as a source of learning or entertainment then becomes the child’s obsession.
Children’s addiction to gadgets/the internet can result in:
- Stopping going out with friends
- Less or no participation in sports activities
- Not being able to focus on academics
- Not being emotionally stable
- Becoming obese and unhealthy
- Becoming aggressive and even violent at times
- Failing grades
- Becoming sleep deprived
- Becoming detached from family members
Gadget addiction actually works in the same way as alcohol or drug addiction. So, what can you, as the parent, do to prevent your child’s gadget use from turning into an addiction?
IT STARTS WITH YOU
What are you role modeling? How much time and attention do you lavish on your phone, laptop or iPad? I know fathers who play games all the time on their phones. I recently worked with a teenager who complained that his dad watched YouTube videos as soon as he came back from work.
DECIDE A CUT-OFF TIME FOR ALL DEVICES AND STICK TO IT
It is usually teens who are more independent than younger children and tend to take their phones into their rooms, spend all night on various apps or send messages to friends. However, teens in particular need their sleep and adequate rest, because of their stage of growth and the academic demands on them.
Staring at screens in the evening is known to have a hugely over-stimulating effect on the brain and is therefore one of the worst activities to promote a restful sleep for your child. The evenings are for winding the brain down, not winding it up! Sleep is vital in helping your child to assimilate the learnings of the day into their brain cells and wake up feeling more relaxed and focused.
PUT BOUNDARIES IN PLACE – BE THEIR PARENT, NOT FRIEND
When you make the rules, enforce the boundaries. Children will be children and it is a natural part of their development to push these boundaries, as a normal part of finding their identity. You need to be clear what you expect from them, be sure to explain why the boundaries are in place and rather than go into conflict about it, it is okay to recognise their frustration sympathise with it. But don’t give in and be firm about the boundaries you put in place.
Repeating yourself can sound like nagging but having to repeat yourself comes with the role of being a parent. When building new habits, your child will need you to keep repeating some rules.
DO THINGS AS A FAMILY
To take your child away from gadgets, you need to create some family time that involves everyone and is genuinely fun. Pack everyone off into the car and head to the splash park. Go to an indoor trampoline park and let loose with some free-jumping (it is more fun than you realise, and positively addictive once you start flying and bouncing around!) Do something touristy, like going to the top of the Burj Khalifa, or get them to choose somewhere you can all agree on for lunch. Get them involved in planning the food and preparing a barbecue. Do regular ‘movie and popcorn’ nights at home.
Playing card games, board games or having discussions and debates (about the World Cup, for example) are all lovely ways to spend time together in fun and stimulating ways. Rather than feeling deprived of a gadget, your kids will be stimulated by other types of fun instead. It is up to you as a parent to keep things fun, interesting and stimulating for your kids, and get them into family time habits from an early age.
If you are struggling with enforcing boundaries in your family, whether it is to do with gadgets, gaming or other worrying habits, or would like to help your child develop more self-confidence, improved focus and more open communication skills, Sunaina Vohra’s Athena Life Coaching can help.