That annoyed grumble when you tell your kids to turn off their tablets, or “just five more minutes!” when asked to switch off video games and go to bed. Are these familiar scenarios in your house?
While these behaviours could be dismissed as kids being kids, they can also be an early sign of screen addiction. Screen addiction is when children spend excessive amounts of time on digital devices, to the point of psychological distress.
What’s excessive? Well, current guidelines recommend kids between 6-17 spend no more than two hours per day on recreational screen time, not including schoolwork. The reality is kids are spending around 7 hours a day on recreational screen time, and it’s affecting their wellbeing and development.
The pandemic saw many of us scramble to get kids prepared for remote learning while also trying to get ourselves set up to work from home. It hasn’t been easy, and admittedly we’ve all used the iPad as a babysitter while trying to balance work, home schooling, housework and childcare.
Screens were essential during the pandemic, but now that things are returning to normal, it’s time to see if our kids screen usage is doing more harm than good.
What does screen addiction in kids look like?
Your child might experience:
• Loss of interest in other activities
• Inability to focus on other tasks
• Difficulty sleeping
• Out of character anger
• Trouble socializing
• Relying on games/the internet to cope with stress
• Distress when devices are taken away
• Using digital devices when they think you’re not looking
• Increased anxiety and low self esteem
Screen addiction can impact your child’s ability to focus on schoolwork and socialize with friends, as well as potential negative impacts to their eyesight, weight and mental and physical health.
Ways you can help
1. Limit your own screen time
Hugh van Cuylenburg, founding director of the Resilience Project , said the first step to helping kids with screen addiction is to look at ourselves.
“The most powerful way to influence anyone’s behaviour is to model those behaviours. We can’t say to our kids “get off your phone” then turn around and check our emails or Facebook” - Hugh van Cuylenburg.
By reducing your own screen use, you might find you have more time for things you enjoy too. Bonus!
2. Set up screen and screen-free times
Organise a time each day where screens are a no-go. This might not be easy at first, so encouraging kids to pursue other interests during this time such as drawing, reading or playing a board game with the family can help.
Life is about balance, so outline specific times where kids are allowed to play on their devices. Make sure everyone knows the time limit and be sure to enforce it.
3. Reduce the number of screens at home
The number of devices kids have access to is enough to make your head spin. Computers, laptops, phones, iPads, hand-held gaming consoles- phew!
Try reducing the number of screens your child can access. If they do need a phone to stay in contact, consider kid-friendly options that don’t access the open internet or social media, like our Spacetalk Adventurer smartwatch phone.
4. Make their room screen free
By not allowing kids to keep devices in their room, you will be better able to monitor their usage, as well as encouraging them to sleep better. Of course this can be easier said than done!
Screen time was a huge part of our lives during the pandemic, but now’s the time to revaluate our reliance. By examining our own screen usage and encouraging kids to spend less time glued to their devices, we can all benefit from a more balanced relationship with technology.