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In my work with children and their families more and more parents are trying to find a balance for the use of technology in their children's lives. Today we talk about children being "addicted" to technology, borrowing some of the terms and ideas from the world of addiction and addiction therapy. More important than the label, is knowing when to worry about your child and then coming up with a plan for what to limit, what to encourage and how to move forward into the next developmental stage.
Here's some things you can do over the next day or two to have a detailed (and often surprising) look at usage.
Best of Luck, Joe Rich, MSW
1) How many hours does my child spend in front of a screen on a daily basis?
Start in the morning and watch all day until bedtime. Include everything from television, video games, readers, etc. The number may shock you! One device at a time may not look like much, but often the accumulated total will be news worthy!
2) How many different technological devices make up my child's experience of technology?
Watch for phone, ipads, games (handheld and on large screen), radio, tv, etc. - try and be inclusive. Ask about school, too (does the teacher use computers, Elmo, Smart Board, etc.). The number may surprise you!
3) Does your child "go on" Facebook repeatedly, checking, updating (on their phone, computer laptop, iphone, etc.). How do they cope when this is limited (ie at the cottage, at camp, power failure, etc. or by parental restrictions or social restrictions (dinner table, waiting rooms, etc. )?
4) How many "Facebook friends" does your child have?
5) How often is your child "checking" their email, messages, texts, etc.?
6) Does your child seem to express greater closeness to online friends than to those they see?
7) How often does your child lose track of time during usage?
8) Has your child lied or "snuck out" to use technology?
It is easy to see that as the numbers climb ( two hours in front a screen or five!) so do our concerns about addiction and overuse for children. Placing all of this in a family context can also be helpful. For example - Is this about them, or are the members of our family on a runaway train when it comes to technology and our overall frequency and dependancy on it in our day to day lives? As always, I encourage you to figure it out, before you try to fix. After you have had a look, likely time to think about the usual strategies for parenting: - saying no; setting limits; role modelling the behaviours you would like to see in your children and, of course, raising healthy and resilient adults!