We often hear the word “addiction” thrown around, and we are guilty of doing it ourselves as parents. We talk about our sons being addicted to video games or our daughters being addicted to their tablets. Could it really be an addiction that they’re experiencing? A report by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that kids under the age of 18 spend up to 75 percent of their waking hours looking at a screen, and it’s statistics just like this that have parents concerned.
Here are a few tips for parents.
Manipulation is one of the biggest problems in the treatment of addiction. Whining is a form of manipulation and is a good indicator that there is an actual issue. In Fight Club style, rule one is to have rules and rule two is to follow them. No whining or manipulating allowed. Enforce this role to encourage healthy technology use in your child. If your child can follow the rules, then there is no problem. If your child whines, throws tantrums or hides the device then these are signs of a burgeoning technology addiction.
Do Not Use Technology As A Reward
At its most fundamental, addiction is a broken reward system where the pleasure center of the brain is hijacked by the addictive cycle. When technology is viewed as a reward for behavior, it is natural to link the event to pleasure. If your child is sad, handing over the tablet connects sadness to the device. What can happen is this connection becomes habitual and the child will always associate sadness with a need to disengage through technology.
Set an Example
Children often mirror the behavior of their parents, so make sure you’re setting an example of healthy technology use in your family. After all, it will be difficult to enforce any rule if your children always see you glued to your tablet or phone. In front of your children, use your tablets or smartphones for photos and as a way to further connect with your family, and keep your own games, email and business-related activities to a minimum in front of them to the best of your ability.
Vary The Routine
Familiar with the “rats in a maze” experiment? The rats want the reward so they run through the maze. The same concept applies here. Your children come home, grab a snack, do some homework then hit the video games. Over time, this routine has a physiological effect of the child’s brain and nerve cells move about to hard wire this behavior into the brain. Instead, create an environment where tech use is naturally occurring. Encourage play activities or a schedule a family-friendly game outside, and treat all activities, including video games equally. There is nothing wrong with video games as a source of entertainment as long as it holds the same weight as playing a board game or a game of hide-and-seek with the whole family.
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