Impact of Technology Addiction on Young kids - Strategies parents can adopt to help their children get over the addiction.
Technology has become an indispensable part of our lives in the 21st century. Pew Research Center study found technology users as young as 12 years old are hooked on technology to a point of addiction. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. It is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, and craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death
Addiction takes a gradual process and the role of parents during this process is to observe obnoxious repetitive behavior such as staying too long on gadgets. Pew Research study revealed that in the United States, an average kid spends almost on average eleven hours watching TV or buried in activities that involve the use of technology. When a child spends these hours on watching the television or playing with their favorite gadgets – but not with books (reading) or doing their weekly assignments or any other volunteer work or chores, the behavior is becoming addictive if it is repetitive behavior, craved for by the user and affects relationships with others.
It was not until 2013 that the level of technology addiction among children was brought to global attention. A four –year old British girl made headline news in April 2013 when she was labelled the “British youngest iPad addict.” According to the British Daily Mail News report, the girl became addicted to her gadget (iPad) that it was inseparable from her. She was using the gadget up to four hours a day over a span of one year. As the report revealed, there are others across the world like her. The situation has become a wakeup call for parents as she was diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder as a result of her addiction to technology – an illness that she has none prior to getting addicted to the technology. In fact, she has neither a history of mental illness in her family, but was undergoing psychiatric treatment for compulsive behavior.
With this story in mind, and more incidents of technology addiction on the rise, it is a reality that like any addiction problems such as drugs and alcohol, the victim is often on denial of the illness. When the situation involves child with no sense of independent thinking in stopping or resolving a problem, not to mention a psychiatric illness like addiction, the responsibility falls on parents to intervene and stop the behavior. As study also revealed, parents especially mothers suffer mood disorders – even depression following addictive behavior of a child. The situation is daring and even technology-savvy parents who have been looking for devices to engage their children in everyday interaction are worried and sacred of their children’s addictive behaviors to technology. They are concerned because once these children become addicted to technology, the study disclosed that they (children) would become even more agitated and inconsolable once the device is taken away by parents. The teen users suffer the same emotional reactions that adults do when being withdrawn from alcohol or drug addiction.
Studies have revealed that when children are addictive to technology, mothers in particular are the first and most likely to be impacted by the addition. They (mothers) with technology- addicted children are likely to suffer from emotional trauma, and most times in depressive mood. The whole family life and activities are most time on hold as family time and resources are devoted to the affected child. Mothers who are the bread winners in the family soon have their entire family lives grind to a halt to the point of losing their jobs.
The consequences of living with technology-addicted children are huge. They are emotional, psychological and physical. As parents, we cannot allow our children go the route that the British girl took and for that too long until she was rescued. As mothers – closer to our children than anyone else, parents could see the behaviors of their children and determine when it is enough to intervene to stop a behavior before it become addictive.
The primary role of parents is to groom responsible, respectful, law abiding and diligent citizens. When we are not on the watch out for hours that our children spend on gadgets versus other activities that encourage them (our children) to gaining knowledge through reading, service to the family and the society through doing chores and volunteering in service to others, then it is something to address. We cannot turn away our eyes when we see our children locked in their rooms hooked on their gadgets and do nothing.
We can take action when we observe the attraction our children have to technology had reached levels to be determined by parents. When those long hours are spent on their gadgets and their engagement on their gadgets is taking away too much of their time and affecting their relationships with us and others, we must intervene. The intervention may come as “time-out” – just like curfews parents introduce when children are reminded that they must follow house rules or get disciplined. Parents should also be aware that the same technology that children are hooked has control devices that empower us to monitor and control what time and what type of activities they engage with technology. Internet, television and tablets have parental control buttons, our taking time to study and understand how they work and adjust the buttons embedded in our children’s gadget could reduce the time they spend on these devices.
It is also a reminder to parents to see their roles as guardians, guidance and counselors. They must view their roles as parents and not “friends” to our children. As often is the case, we often confuse being a disciplinarian and an abuser. It sends a wrong message to our children to assume creating a friendly environment at home for our children is to be their “friends.” The reality is that when we act as “friends” to our daughters and sons, most times we fall short of discharging our parental duties –that will see them as responsible, law abiding and hardworking citizens. Playing to be “friends” to our children is undermining our duties as enforcers of rules and order at home.
Similarly, there is the possibility that our children are likely to take advantage of this kind of relationship to do as they wanted. Meaning that they could spend 11 hours playing video games or watching the television or spending endless hours on their gadgets without parents raising an eyebrow. The responsibility of checking who their friends are, who they associate with, where they go and what they do becomes that part of “friendship” – which these children take for granted. The result is the devaluation of parent order and discipline vital to monitor, control and stop actions including over watching TV or use of technology that leads to addiction.
As parents, having quality time with our children matters a lot. When we do spend quality time with our children, the probability is that the time we spend doing homework with them, going to grocery, the library or the recreational park will take away the time they spend alone or with their gadgets. Conversations with our children are vital to establishing good and positive relationships and trust with our children. Parents should endeavor to converse with their children. Through the conversion, parents cannot understand the inner feelings of their children and be in a better position to identify and avoid emotions that may lead to addiction including technology addiction. Those conversations may be about their school experiences, their assignments and what need to be done for that A= Grade you expect from him or her for semester. In a nutshell, parents’ interacting with their children has more positive consequences than just devoting all our time to working and making money.
Children must not be home alone or with nannies or day care providers for extended hours after school. Parents must make time to review and work through their children assignments, as well as reviewing everyday school activities after school. They must create time for extra-curricular activities with their children. Activities must revolve around children’s time, and not around parents. Activities could include outdoor sports such as soccer, basketball, volunteer activities, religious activities and library visits. Quality time with our children while engaged in any or all of these activities will focus their attention and distract them from engaging in communication with technology but with their parents. It would distract them from hooking to iPad, Television, video games, surfing the Internet – either playing free video games or subscribed games at costs.