With students having constant access to the internet and social media, technology addiction is on the rise. According to a recent poll by CNN, 50% of teens feel they are addicted to their mobile devices while 59% of parents say their teens are addicted to screens. Pulling your children away from their devices is a serious issue that many parents are experiencing – and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier.
So, how can parents help their children develop a healthy relationship with social media, prevent technology addiction, and monitor their children for warning signs? We asked 5 experts to share their best tips.
1. If your child is addicted to screens, recommend replacement activitiesJared Heathman, MD, Houston psychiatrist
Some of the first warning signs that your child is addicted to screens include a loss of creativity for activities without technology which reflects dependence, staying on their gadgets long after their allotted time, and withdrawing from other activities that were once pleasurable. In order to reach out to them, gently confront the noticeable increased usage of technology. Discuss your concern over the lost enjoyment of activities outside electronic usage and recommend replacement activities. Have the child come up with social activities to replace the reliance on gadgets to increase social skills and communication with others.
Games with competitive goals can also increase motivation and assertiveness. Slowly decrease the time of electronic use to make the withdrawal less noticeable. Make a chart to show your child how much they’ve decreased their time on electronics and positively reinforce them for each step towards progress.
2. Regularly monitor your children online and use what you find to start a dialogJosh Ochs, SmartSocial.com
Parents should be diligent about monitoring their children’s online activities. Being actively involved in your child’s digital life will make it easier to spot any red flags that may arise and start a dialog. Regularly discuss your children’s online activities; focus on being supportive, listening, and maintaining a calm attitude. Consider your child’s mood and the environment before diving into these discussions. For example, you wouldn’t want to start this discussion when you’re driving your children and their friends to school.
When parents use the same apps as their kids, children are more likely to behave in a positive way (it also provides parents with a window in which they can monitor their children for any technology addiction red flags). If you’re not sure how a certain app or social networks works, visit our Parent App Guide page to learn how your children could be hiding their activity from you.
3. Establish screen-free zones at homeTitania Jordan, Bark
Let your actions speak louder than your words. Lead by example as a parent and make face-to-face interaction more important than being on your smartphone. Explain how biomechanics affect your brain and your body. Having an open and honest conversation with your kids about how these devices can affect them physically and mentally may help them self-regulate their screen time.
Set limits on screen time. This is the most obvious step but perhaps the most difficult to enforce if your child is addicted to screens. Parents can’t just give your child a device and think they will turn it off when it’s reasonable. Take away the chargers. Use screen-time management apps such as Circle or Unglue.
Have screen-free zones in your house. Don’t let your kids take their devices into their bedroom. Limit it to common areas. Indulge in the real world. Embrace in activities as a family such as art, music, sports and cooking. Get outside, put your feet in the grass and experience the world.
4. Track phone usage with appsJustin Lavelle, BeenVerified, @BeenVerified
Worried about how much time your child spends pressing their nose into the screens of electronics? Do you want to set up parental controls, time limits, and more? Consider tracking phone usage through apps parental control apps. These apps, typically free or for small fees, track how much time users spend on their phones, where their time is divided program-wise, and how often they check their phones throughout the day. The data is converted into graphs for visualization; thus, the apps allow you to determine your next course of action. Another feature of these apps are daily limits: You can decide how much time your child spends on each program. And yes, the apps are password protected.
Balance technology time with outside time. One way to counter your child’s addiction to screens is by ensuring your child has an equal amount of time spent outside compared to the time he or she spends on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Sign your child up for sports, like soccer or gymnastics, or with a club, like Girl/Boy Scouts and 4-H. Not only will you teach your child to love electronic-free activities, but also your child will socialize face-to-face and obtain the communication and problem solving skills needed for the real world. If sports and clubs are not an option, set up fun activities in your backyard (such as treasure hunts and water toys) or take your child to the park. How much time they spend outside is how much time they can spend playing with technology.
5. Get to the root of your child’s screen time addictionHolly Zink, Digital Addicts
Below are some signs that your child may be struggling with being addicted to screens:
Sign #1: They’re Being Possessive Of Their Devices
When a child is possessive of their technological devices, they won’t let them out of there sight or let anyone else use them. Children who aren’t addicted usually don’t care if their parent uses their device every once in a while.
Sign #2: They Throw A Fit When They Can’t Be On Their Devices
As part of being a parent, you may have to take your child’s devices away as a form of punishment, or because it’s not the time to be using them. If your child reacts to this action by throwing a hissy fit, they are definitely addicted to using their devices. A child who isn’t addicted to using them could live without them, at least for a little while.
Sign #3: They Use Their Devices, Even At Family Gatherings
A child who’s attached to using their devices will use them anywhere, including during family gatherings. This could be during holidays, game night, birthday celebrations, and at the dinner table. If they are constantly using their devices, even when it’s family time, they have a technology addiction.
Below are some tips for helping students who show signs of technology addiction:
#1: Use A Parental Control App To Set Device-Use Time Restrictions
The best way to wean a child off of using their devices all of the time is by using a parental control app with a time restriction option. With this, you can restrict the number of hours your child can spend on each of their devices daily. As time passes, gradually decrease the time-length and see how they do.
#2: Help Them Discover Other Activities They Like
Unlike what many children believe, life doesn’t revolve around technology. Help them discover other activities they might like that don’t involve it. Some activities could include joining a local travel sports team, painting, reading, and more.
#3: Ask Them Why They Use Their Devices So Often
Part of addressing a child’s technology addiction is by getting to the root of it. Ask them, “why do you use your devices all the time?” See what they say. Maybe a response they provide is something you can address. For example, they could say they use it because they have no one to spend time with them. If this is the case, maybe encourage them to hang out with friends, or make time yourself, as their parent, to do so.
Technology addiction is a serious issue that many parents face. When parents monitor their children’s behaviors, have regular discussions about technology, and enforce screen time guidelines they will be better equipped to handle any addictive behaviors that might arise.
How do you help your children build a healthy relationship with technology? Let us know in the comments below!