Technology Addiction and Children

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Technology Addiction and Children

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You’ve read the headlines that scream, ‘Tech Addiction is Real!’ and you wonder if it’s true. Your child can’t seem to put his smart phone down and is permanently glued to his tablet. What’s going on here? Is he an addict? Are electronics like drugs to our children?

In China the medical community considers technology addiction a real thing. Giving children and teens a clinical diagnosis, doctors place these ‘addicts’ into technology rehabs where they are forbidden to use any electronic media.

Young people (ages 8 to 18) spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using various forms of media, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study. Australia’s Physical Activity Recommendations say children under age 2 shouldn’t have any tech-time, children ages 2 through 5 should have no more than one hour per day and children ages 5 through 18 should have no more than two hours of total screen time each day. That’s a pretty stark contrast to the more than seven hours that they really get.

The negative effects of too much technology use isn’t exactly breaking news. Excessive amounts of screen time take away from physical activities, often causing weight gain and other not-so-nice health issues. So, if it’s ‘bad’ for your child, but he still engages in the activity in a seemingly obsessive way – does that mean your child is an addict?

Even though Chinese doctors will diagnose a tech over-user with addiction, not every country has the same belief (in technology addiction as a real, medical/psychological issue). That said, some behaviors of tech-intensive kids do look a lot like addiction.

Simply playing video games, texting friends or downloading app after app isn’t enough to consider your child addicted. Yes, you might worry about your child spending too much time online (or on games). And, he might protest (or set off a steady stream of protests) when you put a limit on tech use. But, that’s not exactly addiction at play.

What’s the difference between normal child/teen tech use and something that’s much more serious? If your child’s screen time is getting in the way of the rest of his life he may have a problem – and it may be something that runs deeper than simply enjoying a video game or two. When tech-time trumps other interests and social interactions, its use is becoming unhealthy.

Let’s say your child is a swimming star. He’s loved the water from what seems like birth, is on the team and is always excited to jump right in and practice. But, now he’s reluctant to hit the pool. He outright refuses, and instead sticks to his laptop. When a child loses interest in his former favorite pastime he might simply be transitioning to a new one. That said, when he completely gives it up in favor of 24-7 technology, he’s showing signs of addictive behaviors. Likewise, if he isolates himself from friends and family because of his tech-time use or refuses to be separated from his devices for even a few minutes, something more than a love of media is going on.

When it comes down to it, anything that gets in the way of your child’s normal life is a problem. Whether there’s a doctor’s diagnosis attached or not, addictive technology behaviors need your attention. Help your child strive for balance – putting the tablet down, leaving his smartphone off and talking to real people, face-to-face!

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