It’s really easy to pass a mobile or iPad to an upset child or when you need to attend to something. Sure, it keeps them engaged, they enjoy playing games and watching videos- but do you know the harm it is causing them?
Children can and have become addicted to these gadgets and it is said that such an addiction can produce the same harmful physical and mental damage as traditional addictions like alcohol or drug abuse and gambling.
How does Gadget Addiction Harm Children?
If a child were to spend a day playing on a mobile device what physical activity would that child engage in? Very little.
In fact, a study by British Heart Foundation revealed that only 1 out of 10 ‘mobile generation’ toddlers is active to a healthy level.
Children also miss out on the knowledge gained from social and environmental interactions as they spend increased time on these gadgets. Screen time can affect a child’s imagination and in turn their thinking in later life. Anxiety and mood swings can also be evident when a child’s screen time is limited.
How to Tell if My Child is Addicted to Gadgets?
Playing games on smart devices isn’t always a bad thing, many games aim to help develop the cognitive side of a child’s brain. Here are some signs that your child’s screen time has become excessive-
- Constant use of gadgets;
- Mood swings and argumentative attitude when you question them about using gadgets;
- Lack of interest in other activities;
- Lying or adoption of devious behavior to use their gadgets;
- Display of withdrawal behavior like throwing tantrums, mood swings and denial.
How to Prevent Gadget Addiction in Children?
It’s just focusing on the basics. Here are some steps that may help.
Keep the Smart Devices Out of Reach
The simplest way to restrict your child from using a gadget is to limit their access to it. Put all gadgets out of reach or password protect them.
Engage more with your child. Read to them or give them a coloring book or better yet take them outside for a game of catch.
Warn them in Advance
If your child has already developed a connection with a gadget, just snatching it away can lead to a myriad of negative reactions, ranging from tantrum to full blown meltdown.
The trick is to start warning your child in advance. For example, tell your child that he can only watch videos for 15 more minutes then it’s bedtime. Let them know that their gadget time is coming to an end.
Cut Down your Own Use
Children follow their parent’s lead, set a good example. Don’t rush to your phone as soon as it beeps or stay glued to it for hours in front of your child.
Spend time with your children without your phone, put your phone away at meal times. Your behavior will let them know that non-stop viewing of videos or games is not an acceptable.
Encourage Active Learning
Children learn from everything they do; that’s why you will see them repeating the same thing again and again. All the time gaining vital knowledge and working toward understanding how the world works.
The same concept is also used in play schools and Montessori Schools where children are made to engage in various tasks like tying their own shoes, arranging things in a room and so on. These activities are more pronounced for preschoolers and primary school children.
Do not encourage the use of gadgets either as a distraction or a play mate. Engage in more hand on activities with your children. Spending time with mom or dad is usually all a child wants: colour, read, play, learn new games, talk, even do housework. Their enthusiasm may surprise you.
Don’t Buy them an iPad
Your seven-year-old child may throw a tantrum if you refuse to buy him an iPad, let him. He does not need one. If he has to use a gadget, simply share your mobile or tablet. This gives you full control and also makes it easy to track his online activity.
Don’t Leave Children Idle
Just limiting your child’s mobile use is only a part of the solution. You have to fill their time wisely with fruitful activities so that they don’t get bored and irritated with nothing to do.
When they are not using their gadgets take them out biking, play a game of soccer with them or just take them to the park where they can run about freely.
Educate Your Child
The best way to prevent your child developing an addiction to gadgets is through education Make them aware of the dangers they face and the positive aspects of sensible usage.
In a lot of cases a talk is all that is required in order for children to understand that limits are put in place for their own good.
Strike a Healthy Balance
It’s not necessary to totally cut off all gadget use for your children. Research shows that there are some benefits even from playing video games, for example they may increase concentration and teach new technical skills.
Balance is key, allow iPad use for a limited time, as a treat or a tool.
A balance with mobile usage is also imperative. Mobile phones, more specifically, the family GPS tracking apps available today, play a tremendous part in keeping children safe and parents worry free.
Family GPS tracking apps allow you to see in real time and on a map where your child is, affording you the comfort of knowing that they have arrived at their destination safely or are where they should be.
Gadgets are not all bad. They are there for our use. We should use them to our advantage and one simple advantage lies in using them to help keep our families safe. Balance is achievable, spend time with your children, encourage hands-on outdoor activities, read to them, talk to them and educate them on the importance of sensible gadget usage.