While there’s no agreement on how much we should limit children’s screen time, you can still determine whether your child is overusing smart devices and veering into digital addiction.
Here are some signs of digital addiction:
- Trouble completing tasks
Does your child have trouble completing homework and chores? Does your child pay less attention to studying, and loses focus easily?
- Isolation from friends
Would your child rather play with his or her digital devices rather than friends?
- Concealing use of smartphones
Is your child sneaking his or her smartphone into bed, or using it when you already said no?
- Anxiety when separated from smartphones
Does your child get worried or upset if you take away his or her devices?
Mr. Seet, a parent at Lorna Whiston who has two children under 5, says many parents provide devices to their children just to keep them entertained so that they can get on with their “own” devices too. “It's really sad to see a family sitting together without much communication as they each entertain themselves with their own devices,” he adds.
The Rise of Digital Addiction Amongst Youth
The use of smartphones, tablets, or the Internet can trigger the release of the brain chemical dopamine and alter a child’s mood just like the use of drugs and alcohol, according to helpguide.org, a U.S.-based mental health awareness organisation affiliated with Harvard Health Publications.
Digital addiction happens because chidlren can rapidly build up a tolerance so that it takes more and more time in front of these screens to derive the same pleasurable reward.
And this problem is growing rapidly among Asian youth. In China, Internet addiction affects about 24 million children and about 22% of youth in Hong Kong. The BBC also reported that about 25% of South Korean youth suffer from “nomophobia,” the fear of being without their smartphone even for a brief period of time.
Many countries have opened treatment centres to treat digital addiction, especially among youth. In Singapore, the Touch Cyber Wellness Centre provides education and counselling services for children as young as 4 years.
Balancing and Leveraging Technology to Use for Learning
Technology has become an essential part of our lives. We simply can’t deny our children access to smart devices. Most experts compare the overuse of smart devices to overeating. Similarly, you can find a healthy diet to balance the use of technology.
Lorna Whiston Schools recently asked parents about their children’s technology use. All without exception told us that they limit their children’s screen time. They worry about potential problems that negatively affect their children such as eye strain and radiation, reduced attention spans, and anti-social behaviours.
At the same time, parents also want their children to develop technology skills. “Technology is inevitable for the future,” another parent told us. “I want my child to be equipped with all the tools he needs to succeed later on in life.”
So how can you and your children balance the use of technology for learning?
In our next article, you’ll discover strategies to minimise your child’s risk of digital addiction and develop healthy habits around technology usage.
Meanwhile, Singaporean parents concerned about their children’s addiction to mobile phones and other smart devices can call the Touch Cyber Wellness Hotline at 1-800-377-2522.