Do you find that your child or teenager spends the majority of their down time glued to a screen? Do they appear to find it difficult to direct their attention to a lengthy task for an extended period of time without flicking across to Facebook or glancing down at their text messages? Do you find it difficult to coax them into sleeping as they feel unable to leave a computer game level incomplete? If this is the case, you are not alone. Technology addiction is becoming a larger problem in Australian families and it can place the psychological wellbeing of your children at risk.
A 2003 study by Nalwa and Anand compared a group of school students who were dependent on technology and a group who were not dependent on it to determine any differences in psychological functioning. They found that technology dependence in the sample was associated with greater loneliness, and decreased sleep due to late-night log ons, and decreased productivity, as these students tended to delay work to spend time online. They also identified a common belief in the technology-dependent sample that life would be ‘boring without the Internet’, which may indicate a decreased sense of creativity and belief in being able to entertain themselves without technology.
1. Talk to them about the benefits of being active – more fun with friends, more energy to do things, developing new skills and staying at a healthier weight.
2. Set an example to your children by leading a more active lifestyle yourself, and limit yourself to no more than two hours of screen time per day.
3. Get a true sense of your family’s situation by logging time spent in front of screens (i.e. tablets, phones, computers, TV) and time spent doing more physical activities (e.g. exercise, playing music, cooking, playing with toys).
4. Do something active whilst watching TV, such as yoga, stretching, pushups or situps, so that screens are not necessarily associated with inactivity.
5. Set a household rule of no more than two hours of screen time per day. Enforce this rule by removing devices and unplugging computers after the limit has been reached.
6. Create screen-free bedrooms – children who have TVs in their room tend to watch 90 minutes more TV per day than those who do not, and they also tend to spend less time with the rest of the family.
7. Create screen-free meal times – do not allow the TV to be on, and do not allow your family members to be on their phones or in front of the computer whilst eating. Make meal time = family time.
8. Provide other activity options and do your best to facilitate them – give your children other ideas for recreation besides watching TV, such as playing outside, developing a hobby or playing sport.
9. Do not use TV as a reward or an activity to be punished, as it may make TV seem even more important than it is.
If you believe your child or adolescent may have problems with technology addiction and your attempts to intervene have been unsuccessful, it may be useful to speak with a child psychologist to obtain professional assistance.
At Strategic Psychology, we have trained psychologists who can help introduce strategies to reduce your child’s technology use and enhance their psychological wellbeing.
Nalwa, K., & Anand, A. P. (2003). CyberPsychology & Behavior, 6(6), 653-656. doi:10.1089/109493103322725441.
National Institute of Health. (2013). Tips to Reduce Screen Time. Retrieved from: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/reduce-screen-time/tips-to-reduce-screen-time.htm