Does your child check their smartphone every time they receive Facebook notifications or messages? Are they distracted from their studies or homework? Are they glued to their iPhone at supper or when it’s time to go to bed? Perhaps you feel like your child has an addiction. In fact, half of the American teens think that they’re addicted to their phones themselves. Digital addiction is a serious problem that’s growing in recognition. Let’s take a look at some of the tell tale symptoms.
Signs of addiction
The following could all be potential signs that your child has a problem with digital device overuse. Of course, it’s far from being the only explanation, but as all of these symptoms are cause for alarm in and of themselves, it’ll be worth digging deeper if you spot one:
Your child has problems with sleep – this might it reveal itself as insomnia, worse sleep quality or taking a long time to fall asleep. This might be caused by staying up late to play games and watch videos, waking up during the night to check notifications or due to using screens during the hour before sleep which can disrupt the body’s natural melatonin production cycles.
Depression and anxiety – Lack of human contact can result in mental health problems. A recent study shows that teens who prefer virtual to real-life communication tend to have a high level of social anxiety or even depression. Cell phone addiction affects relationships with friends and family in a negative way. There’s also a tight connection between mental health problems and an increase in modern media screen activities.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder – Cell phone addicted teens constantly feel the pressing need to use their mobile devices all the time. Turning the phone off can cause increased anxiety and even panic. The obsessive idea of staying connected round the clock is a real problem that might require expert care.
Relationship problems – Mobile phone engagement might reach such a degree that a teenager becomes distracted from being present in the real world. It adversely affects all spheres of their lives – school, family and other responsibilities. A child might isolate from friends and family, spending time absorbed in the digital world. The danger hides in the fact that while it’s crucial for teens to gain social skills and interact in person, they prefer virtual communication. To further understand exactly why your kids are addicted to phones, let’s dig a little deeper into the causes of this addiction.
Reasons why kids are addicted to their phones
Pleasure. Smartphone addiction works similarly to game addiction. Every once in a while the user receives some sort of a reward. This might be a message, a like, a notification, or anything else which is pleasurable to receive, but whose arrival is unpredictable. Whenever we get a reward like this, dopamine controlling the pleasure centers releases in the brain. So it makes people feel happy and desire more. It also causes a quick message check turn into endless Facebook feed scrolling.
Part of extended self. The psychological notion of “extended self” refers to all the possessions we’re tied to. When a person loses a part of their self, it can feel like a great loss. Smartphones have become an integral part of the extended self. Children might experience anxiety when they can’t find their phone or are unable to check the device for some period of time. This study suggests that more than half of late teens experience a high level of discomfort if kept from checking their devices.
The need to produce and socialize. It’s a part of human nature to imitate, copy, and make models in the process of personal progression. Mobile devices help teens with that. They take pictures, select the best selfie, socialize. Texting friends and googling information is the modern way of creating rock carvings and telling stories around the fire. Mobile messaging is the letter of the 21st century, providing a cheap and indirect method of communication.
Recognition by the public. All of us want to belong to a bigger group and to be accepted. Cell phones and social media provide just such an opportunity. In the digital world teenagers are able to join forums, Facebook chats, or other messaging groups. Your child receives tribe acceptance by way of likes, comments, messages. So they check the cell phone again and again to get a reward. This is how the habit is formed and your kid becomes hooked to the phone.
How to set your kid free from addiction
If you want to help your child to overcome digital addiction, here are some ideas:
Set limits. There should be strict and clear boundaries of when and how long to use the mobile device
Introduce tech breaks. Family time in the evening or at the weekend should be smartphone-free.
Establish digital-free zones. Arrange not to use mobile devices in the kitchen and bedroom while allowing play in the living room.
Put a specialised parenting app on their smartphones. Parental control software lets you monitor your child’s device usage and block inappropriate content.
Try to replace the phone with healthy alternatives. Engage your kid in active family time or fun activities. Teach them to enjoy the real world, treasure the joys of life and to get along without a cell phone.