In today’s generation, tablets and phones have replaced the TV as a way of pacifying children and keeping them entertained – yet these devices could be having a significant impact on the mental health of children. Experts have warned that parents who allow babies and toddlers to access tablet computers for several hours a day are in danger of causing “dangerous” long term effects.
The report, Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America in 2013, for example, has revealed that one in three toddlers use a gadget before they can even talk. London-based Consultant Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr. Richard Graham and Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jay Watts, who launched the UK’s first technology addiction program a few years ago, say that technology addiction can affect a child’s behavior and sleeping patterns.
Is your child addicted to their iPad? Here are 5 signs that indicate your child is hooked.
Lack of Interest in Other Activities
One sign a child may have an issue with technology is when a parent is trying to get the child to do something else that is fun – such as going to the cinema or taking part in real-life activities – and the child is reluctant to do so.
Dr. Graham explained that if this reluctance increases and ‘it becomes harder and harder to get them to do anything other than engaging with technology’, they may be showing signs of addiction. Dr. Watts added that ‘a bit of groaning at having to do anything else is common.’ ‘But if your child has difficulty paying attention its worth finding out what is going on and whether this is a problem at school too.’
Distracted by Technology
You may have an issue if you find your child constantly talking about when they are next going online, or they’re talking about their next technology fix. ‘Look for signs of them constantly wanting to get back to their devices. For example, if they keep playing and checking their phone wanting to switch it back on,’ Dr. Graham says. Is the amount of time they spend using devices increasing? The constant need to interact with their tablet is a definite cause for concern for parents.
If your child starts to become very sensitive when you’re expressing your concern on their tablet usage, up to the point that it escalates into an argument should serves as a wake-up call to parents. When your child can’t cope reacts with tantrums and uncontrollable behavior when their device is taken away is a sure sign of tablet addiction.
According to Dr. Graham, ‘if a child appears tense or upset when they can’t get online, and this feeling noticeably goes away when they are given their devices, they may have a problem.’ He also adds, ‘When they may become distressed or angry by small things and when they are back online become calmer’ it’s time for parents to check for signs of anxiety, agitation and irritability.
Dr. Watts added: ‘A little agitation at not being able to be online with one’s friends is pretty normal, but if a child continuously can’t get over this, it’s time to start a conversation.’
Another red flag for tablet addiction among children includes concealing the extent to which they use their devices, hiding them or using them in bed without your knowledge. Dr. Graham said children with potential addiction ‘will try to do as much as they can to minimize the extent to which they are asked about their technology use’ by keeping it a secret.
These 5 signs of tablet addiction can be curbed at an early stage if parents enforce limits in usage, instill consequences for excessive use, and provide daily structure for their children. It is especially important for sleep hygiene that tablets are not used before bed time and that they are kept in a different room overnight to stop children from using the devices straight before, during, and after sleep.