Parenting in an Era of Screen Addiction
We live in a time where our children can access anything at any moment using a smartphone. They can shop, play games, research, or communicate at any time. While there are numerous benefits, there is an overwhelming number of parents dealing with children who are addicted to their screens.
If you have a child who would rather spend all their time staring at a screen, scrolling through social media, or playing a video game, you are not alone. According to an online survey by Parents, children spend almost 55 days, or 1,314 hours, on screens each year.
Parenting in an era of screen addiction is not for the weak. If you have ever tried to get a kid to put down the tablet, smartphone, or video game controller, you know just how challenging it can be. But, you cannot give in. Screen addiction is real and prevalent. It’s up to you to do something about it.
Negative Consequences Abound
As if the parenting concerns about online stranger danger and cyberbullying were not enough, now we must worry about the negative consequences of merely spending too much time online. For instance, parents have always been aware that their children could stumble upon inappropriate content online. But, what’s a parent to do when they just cannot get their teenager to put down the phone and go outside?
Unfortunately, screen addiction has even more consequences. Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, author of Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids, claims, “I’ve worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict.”
Plus, those children who are addicted to screens struggle with obesity, as well as healthy social interactions. These same kids read less, sleep less, and use their imaginations less. But, this can even be true for kids who have not reached the point of addiction.
An Addiction or an Unhealthy Habit?
As a parent, you will have to determine if your child has a screen addiction or just unhealthy habits. For most parents, it is primarily an issue of unhealthy habits. For instance, if your child is spending more than six hours a day staring at a screen, this is harmful behavior. However, it crosses into addiction when your child continues even after suffering negative consequences. Additionally, actual addiction will also lead to withdrawal symptoms.
How to Parent in This Digital Era
First things first, to positively influence your children’s screen habits, you must monitor your own. You cannot tell your child to put down the smartphone if you do not put it down yourself. Furthermore, parents should stay alert and involved in their family’s screen usage. Parents need to set clear limits and make sure each family member follows the guidelines. Parents may find the Family Media Plan and Media Time Calculator useful.
Next, you should speak candidly with your children about why screen time limits are necessary. Talk with your children about the consequences of screen addiction. You may even consider viewing the Web Junkie documentary to show them real-life examples.
Finally, if you do have a child who appears to be addicted to screens, there are treatment programs available, such as Unplugged. Unplugged is an electronics addiction treatment program. I encourage you to speak with your child’s doctor or counselor if you have genuine concerns about whether this is a habit or addiction.