The Importance of Teaching Your Children About Screen Addiction
These days, kids spend a lot of time using screens. While you might not initially see a problem with digital engagement, the reality is that many children have a screen addiction. And, like any other addiction, that can come with a variety of issues for them now and in the future.
Before you talk to your children about screen time and addiction, it’s important to educate yourself on why it’s so important (and potentially dangerous). It’s estimated that kids and young adults between the ages of 8-28 spend over 44 hours each week in front of a screen. Let’s dive into that so you can be prepared for an educational conversation with your children. We’ll also cover some alternative ideas you can suggest to take the place of screen time in their lives.
What’s the Big Deal With Screen Time?
While letting your kids have screen time each week isn’t a bad thing, there’s a fine line when it comes to enjoying some entertainment and needing that time in front of a screen to feel satisfied. Not sure how to identify that line? Some of the most common signs of screen addiction include
- Your child can’t control their screen use
- They’ve withdrawn from other activities
- They’re being deceptive about how much time they spend in front of a screen
- They start having social issues
Unfortunately, too much screen time can harm your child’s developmental growth. Some studies have shown that excessive screen time can impact a child’s ability to learn, especially when it comes to language and communication. When you combine those communication issues with the common struggles of screen addiction, it can lead to more serious mental health concerns. Your child might start to isolate themselves, and their addiction could lead to anxiety or depression.
How to Teach Your Child About Screen Addiction
As a parent, your instinct might be to take away all digital devices from your child. But, going “cold turkey” isn’t always the best method for a child. It could end up fueling their dependence and possibly lead to other harmful addictions, even more, causing them to rebel or become more anxious, or contribute to withdrawal symptoms.
Instead, the best way to manage your child’s screen addiction is to talk to them about it. Make them aware of the potential risks using age-appropriate language, and explain to them why their health and well-being are more important than staring at a screen. You can even talk about specific types of problems, like smartphone addiction. If you have a teenager who seems to be glued to their phone 24/7, don’t be afraid to be honest with them about the effects that kind of addiction can have on their social life and relationships.
From there, you can set reasonable boundaries for their digital devices. That might include things like no screen time until homework and chores are done. Or, you can allow screens during certain hours of the day, but not others. At the end of the day, you’re the one who needs to put rules in place. Don’t be surprised if you experience some backlash, but when your child starts to understand those boundaries and knows they aren’t going to change, they’ll be more likely to follow them.
Come Up With Alternatives
It’s not uncommon for kids to turn on their digital devices out of boredom. One of the best things you can do to keep that from happening is to provide them with tech-free alternatives. Get creative with fun activities, and try things like
- Taking something apart to see how it works
- Creating a treasure hunt
- Flying a kite
- Building an indoor bowling alley
Don’t be afraid to try new activities that are out of your comfort zone. Not only will they keep your child’s interest, but you might spark a new hobby or passion that will encourage them to spend less time on a digital device and more time exploring that interest.
It’s also a great idea to get your kids outside as often as possible. Spending time in nature can help to reduce stress, boost energy, and improve your children’s mental state. If they’re having a hard time “detoxing” from their digital devices, the more time they spend in nature, the better. Go on a family walk every evening, or spend time at a local park a few times each week. Try to find activities that appeal to your child’s natural interests, and they’ll be more likely to want to be involved.
Like any addiction, a reliance on screens and digital devices is dangerous – especially for kids. Set an example in your house by monitoring your own screen time and limiting it in front of your children. By understanding the risks involved with screen addiction and setting boundaries for your kids, you’ll set them up for a future where they’re less dependent on technology, and more likely to have healthy relationships and strong communication skills.
About the Author
Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in education, mental health, family lifestyle and online safety. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. You can follow her on Twitter.