Parents, have you ever encountered your child throwing a tantrum when you ask them to surrender their gadgets? Do they isolate themselves all day playing Minecraft or other games? Are they showing irrational behavior without their tablets, smartphones, and iPads? Then it’s bad news – your kid must be suffering from digital addiction already.
Does this look familiar, parents?
How gadgets, games and social media turn us into digital addicts
Just like conventional drugs such as heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine, tablets and screens affect the brain and cause addiction. Especially for kids who are still at the stages of brain development, too much exposure to digital stimulation make them dependent on it. According to psychotherapist and drug expert Dr. Kadaras, digital stimulation affects the same areas of the brain that addictive drugs target. The area affected is the brain’s frontal cortex, which is also responsible for cognitive abilities and behavior like impulse control. This area begins to shrink, and what happens are a slew of conditions such as ADHD, aggression, anxiety, depression and psychosis.
Scientists say one of the ways digital addiction happens is due to the increase in dopamine levels when one plays digital games. This spike in dopamine has the same effect as addictive drugs and the brain becomes dependent on it. Below is a list of some of the signs of digital addiction we should watch out for:
Could your child be suffering from digital addiction already?
Signs and symptoms of digital addiction
1. Your child can’t go through the day without playing their gadgets.
2. They become restless and irritable when you take their gadgets away from them. Tantrums and even aggression may be imminent too.
3. They prefer their gadgets over socializing with other kids or physical games.
For kids especially in their pre-school years, they very much like to socialize, meet and play with other children. If your child prefers screen time than the real world, be alarmed.
4. They would lie or sneak in just to get their tablets when you confiscate or restrict it.
5. Some visible physiological changes occur, such as insomnia and trance.
6. They seem to be “not in the moment”. As if they don’t hear or see you when they are facing their gadgets.
So what can we do to avoid or to cure digital addiction?
Controlling usage is one of the effective means to address digital addiction
Some cures and preventive measures for digital addiction
1. As much as possible, hold off giving tablets, smartphones and the like until age 10.
Kids at least 10-years old are much better at handling impulse control, have more developed cognitive functions and can handle the technological stimuli much better.
2. If it seems like the child is digitally addicted already, the best way is complete withdrawal.
Some people believe that gradually stopping addictive behavior is best. This is exemplified by smokers decreasing their stick intake everyday gradually. But this is not the case. Digital addiction should be reformed just like drug addiction. Total withdrawal or denial of the source of addiction is best. The behaviour may turn bad during the phases of withdrawal, but eventually, children will adapt to not having their digital gadgets. The good news too is that kids adapt more easily to withdrawal symptoms than addicted adults.
3. If you think your child is very addicted already to the point of violence, consult a child psychiatrist.
Painful as it is to admit, but rehabilitation from digital addiction is very much like drug addiction. They may be given therapies and enrolled in an internet addiction or gadget addiction boot camp.
Some parents would say that gadgets are indispensable because it aides in learning and let their kids get an educational headstart. But child psychiatrists still value the olden way of learning by exploration, curiosity, playing with other children, reading books etc. Not only do these activities develop motor, neural and speech skills, this also develops the social and emotional skills of the child.
Also, beware for digital addiction can hit your children as much as it can hit us adults too. While the digital and technological age is here to stay, we should remember the age-old saying. Too much of a good thing is worse, so take everything in moderation!
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Sources: NY Post
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