Technology addiction among children and teenagers has become a major concern for many parents. While technology can be used positively to promote learning, creativity, and engagement, it can also be a source of distraction and unhealthy habits that can cause developmental harm to young minds. We don't mean to be alarmist but rather, our goal is to always help support dads be better parents. This, however, is a subject that all too often is ignored or laughed away as somehow being less important than issues related to physical health and development.
Tech addiction is a real issue but it, unfortunately, is mixed with a generational fear of new technology and fear that the next generation won't be able to grow up like they did. Our parents talked about video games causing addiction and theirs talked about TV rotting their brains. I'm sure your great-grandparents probably complained about the radio being an issue for their kids too.
While there's some humor and perspective needed to discuss this topic effectively, there are some shocking trends that are emerging. For instance, a study in 2013 showed that the average 13-24 year-old kid in the United States now spends 16.7 hours per week using the Internet for activities other than email and another 13.6 hours watching TV. This by itself doesn't indicate harm but it is divergent from how previous generations spent time.
However, these behaviors can develop into behaviors that cause harm the same way that drugs, alcohol, and other compulsive behaviors can - in people who are pre-disposed to addictive behavior.
Even if it doesn't qualify as an addiction in your son or daughter, I think an argument can be made that being focused on digital entertainment instead of socializing in real life can cause issues related to social skills, problem-solving, physical fitness, and specific ailments like eye strain and neck or finger injuries.
Let's take a look at some things that you can do to help your kids break free from tech addiction and live life more fully!
Establish Screen Time Limits
One of the most effective ways to help children curb their technology use is by establishing strict time limits on their screen time. This should be done in consultation with the child instead of from an authoritarian perspective so everyone agrees on what constitutes reasonable usage before you implement any rules. It's important to provide a few alternatives so kids don't feel deprived once they are off their devices. For instance, depending on their ages and interests, you might want to invest in a place where they can do art, play games outdoors, or even just create a comfy niche in their room to curl up and read a book.
Set A Good Example
Parents should lead by example when it comes to using technology responsibly. If your child sees you checking emails 24/7 or scrolling through social media obsessively, then they'll think this behavior is acceptable too! Make sure you're setting the right example by properly managing your own tech use so your kids can follow suit.
Spend More Time With Them Where Technology Can't Reach
This isn't a moment like in the movies where the whole family throws their phones in a box to be locked away for the weekend. Instead, it is a chance for you to make a conscious effort to do something fun and exciting with them beyond the reach of the internet and phone. There are some great hiking tips for beginners that will explain everything that you need to know. Or, if you have older children, then you could also think about a choice like mountain biking.
Talk About Why Technology Use Should Be Limited
Oftentimes, kids don't understand why they need to limit their screen time and why it's important for them to take breaks from tech occasionally. Sit down with them and explain why too much technology use can prevent them from exploring new interests or developing real-world interpersonal skills such as negotiation or collaboration - both of which are essential for success as an adult.
Make Sure They Have an Offline Hobby
Encourage your children to find activities that don't involve screens - like painting, gardening, sports, or board games - instead of turning to their devices whenever they're bored or have free time on their hands. This helps foster creativity and teaches skills like problem-solving and the importance of physical activity.
Monitor Usage Regularly
Finally, keep track of how much time your child is spending on certain apps or websites to gauge usage levels but also identify any warning signs, such as cyberbullying, inappropriate conversations, the exploration of potentially troublesome topics, or online predators early on before things get out of hand. Luckily, there are plenty of resources out there to help empower parents to keep their kids safe.
Don't Demonize Technology Or Make It Taboo!
Children tend to covet things they see as being forbidden by their parents. For instance, think about how much more you crave chocolate when you are on a diet or "just one more drink" when you are struggling as a recovering alcoholic.
Instead, you need to make technology something that they accept as a part of their lives but not something that causes other elements of life to be excluded from their young minds.