While there’s some debate about the reality of technology addictions, unhealthy use of technology has been linked to physical, social, and psychological problems. These include: an increased risk of childhood obesity, depression, cyberbullying, lack of sleep, and poor performance in school.
However, with the popularity of television, video games, computers, and other mobile devices, the constant use of technology has nevertheless become a normal part of everyday life. We’re now accustomed to seeing toddlers play with their parent’s tablets, we’ve learned to expect that teenagers will be glued to their devices, and we can only hope that everyone will put their phones away for dinner.
So how can we recognize when all this becomes too much? Let's take a look.
Signs Your Child May be Overusing Technology
You might already have a good sense that technology has become way too important to your child, but if you want some validation, here are some of the most common signs.
- Technology is a constant source of interference in their lives
- They’re uncomfortable when they can’t access the internet or use their devices
- They habitually use their phones in class, while others are talking, and even behind the wheel
- They prefer the virtual world of social media over real-life interactions
- They are reclusive in spending time watching tv, playing video games, or surfing the internet
Often, technology overuse or "addiction" is most evident when a child's interpersonal relationships are affected. Additionally, iPads, phones, and other devices can interfere with responsibilities, including schoolwork, chores, or extracurricular activities.
How Much Screen Time is Too Much?
Not including educational pursuits, the Mayo Clinic suggests limiting children’s and teen’s screen time to just 2 hours a day of high-quality content. This is a far cry from the average of 6+ hours that recent studies have found. In response, the American Academy of Pediatrics is arming parents with practical recommendations for limiting usage and exposure:
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
- Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
- Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
- Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
Although limiting screen time is a great place to start, it’s just the first step to stopping unhealthy technology habits. It’s just as important for parents to be good models of behavior in their own daily interactions with technology.
If you believe that your child or teen might be overly dependent on technology— or if you’ve noticed other dramatic changes in their behavior— contact Idaho Youth Ranch for professional help and guidance.