I previously wrote about this subject in our post “Is my kid spending too much time with a tablet or a smartphone?”. I thought it would be helpful to write about the worst case scenario in more detail: what if your kid really is spending too much time with technology like video games? What if your kid is already addicted to their tablet or smartphone?
Technology can be highly addictive. In the age of the Internet, almost everything is available at the press of a button. Everyone can easily access different kinds of entertainment such as funny videos and pictures or video games,. For preteen kids nowadays, video games are mainly played on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or a tablet. Unlike before, when kids still used to only play with gaming consoles or PC’s, now their gaming devices are carried in their pockets everywhere they go. This evolution of technology has made it more difficult to control kids’ screen time. Especially when mobile devices are mostly seen as necessities by modern families.
Limiting your kids screen time is vital. Setting up limits and teaching your child to self-regulate is important in many ways. Less screen time means more time playing outside, learning new things or spending time reading or drawing. Setting limits also brings balance and prevents your kid from forming an addiction to these devices.
Four signs your kid is addicted to video games
1. Lack of interest in other activities
Unlike grown-ups with more life experience, children should still be able to find numerous things interesting and be easily excited about them. The world of a child is full of fun activities to engage in, alone or with friends. With their vivid imagination, they can easily make up games to play indoors, outside in the park or the forest. The first sign to be worried about is when your kid doesn’t want to do anything other than play games.
2. Problems with the ability to concentrate
Excess time spent playing highly interactive and over-stimulating video games causes an information overload to kids under-developed brains. This can affect the child’s ability to concentrate and focus on even simple household tasks or schoolwork. This also makes the video game addict to want more and more and constantly worry about when they are going to get their next “fix”. Focusing on anything else becomes impossible.
3. Hostile behavior and mood swings
These are the classic signs of any addiction. When you’re trying to set limits and raise concerns about the excess time your kid is spending playing video games and it escalates into an argument, there is most likely a problem already.
4. Lying or devious behavior related to technology
Another classic symptom of an addiction is when the addict resorts to lying, just so they don’t have to give up their source of addiction. With kids and their smartphones or tablets this usually means concealing the extent to which they use their devices. If the devices are freely available to them, they can secretly use them after bedtime or wake up unusually early just to play with their devices.
How to help your technology addicted child
When your kid has been able to play games and indulge in technology with hardly any limitations, it can be a difficult process to fix the situation. What you basically need to do is to arrange your kid a fresh start with technology. Detox your kid from the video games and reintroduce these devices back into their life in small doses.
Step 1. Ban technology completely
- Start by banning video games and the gaming devices completely for at least a week. Depending on the level of addiction, they will show withdrawal symptoms, but those will gradually disappear.
- Ignore every plea to get their devices back. If you suddenly change your mind and back down with your intent to help your kid, they will see this as a forfeit, which makes it more difficult to try to help them with the same process in the future.
- Come up with fun activities for your kid to engage in as they are detoxing. This part is totally up to you and your kid, but spending time with them is probably the best thing you can do. They would surely want to go hang out with their friends, as they know they could get to play games on their friend’s devices.
Step 2. Reintroduce technology in a controlled manner
- Reintroduce technology back into their lives in small doses. Set strict limits right from the beginning. You could start with for example only one hour of screen time a day for a couple of weeks. Although this might not be so simple, as nowadays there are many beneficial ways to use a tablet and many schools are starting to introduce study materials for tablets. You might need to monitor your kids tablet use and make different limitations for games and learning apps.
- Monitor your kid’s behavior during this time and be sure to reward them for every positive action they take. For example remembering to put down the device after the screen time limit is reached is a good sign of self-regulation.
- Keep spending time with your kid, so you can keep mentoring them about technology. This is also a great opportunity to help them get interested in a hobby or any “real world” activity for that matter.
Have you noticed addictive behavior in your child? Write us your thoughts on the subject below.