How To Protect Your Child From Screen Addiction: Insights By Expert Child Psychologist
Article written by an expert child psychologist, MSc. Clinical Psychology
In today’s digital age, children are growing up in a world dominated by screens – smartphones, tablets, computers, and televisions. While technology offers numerous benefits, it also poses significant challenges, including the risk of screen addiction.
Screen addiction, often referred to as “internet addiction” or “digital addiction,” is a condition where individuals, including children, become excessively engrossed in screen-based activities, often at the expense of their physical health, social interactions, and academic performance.
The impact of screen addiction on a child’s brain, growth, and development is a growing concern. Recent statistics highlight the severity of the issue:
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children aged 8 to 18 spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes per day on screens, with potentially detrimental effects on their cognitive and socio-emotional development.
A study published in JAMA Pediatrics revealed that excessive screen time in early childhood is associated with delays in developmental milestones, especially in language and motor skills.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified screen addiction as a significant risk factor for childhood obesity, which affects over 40 million children worldwide.
The expert child psychologist at Holistic Living says, “It is disturbing the amount of cases I have received of screen addiction. Many parents are concerned that their child is not sleeping well, or their child is not fulfilling necessary milestones. Poor academic performance, social isolation, and stunted physical growth are some of the other issues that many parents worry about. All these problems can be linked to screen addiction. I am not saying that screen addiction is the ONLY reason for these issues, but yes, it definitely escalates these concerns in children”
Now that we understand the gravity of screen addiction’s impact, let’s explore expert child psychologist-recommended steps parents can take to protect their children from its potentially deadly effects.
Expert Child Psychologist Tips: How to Protect Your Child From Screen Addiction
1. Set Clear Screen Time Limits:
Establish age-appropriate daily and weekly screen time limits for your child based on recommendations from expert child psychologists. Ensure that screen time does not interfere with crucial activities like sleep, homework, and physical activity.
Be firm on your regulations and educate your child about the importance of limiting screen time. You can also help your child set the alarm clock so that when it rings your child will understand that it is time to switch off the TV.
2. Create a Screen-Free Bedroom:
Remove screens, including smartphones and televisions, from your child’s bedroom. This ensures that bedtime remains a tech-free and peaceful environment, promoting healthier sleep patterns.
3. Be a Tech Role Model:
Children often imitate their parents’ behavior. Demonstrate responsible screen use by limiting your screen time during family activities and meals. Encourage face-to-face conversations and quality family time. Staying away from the tech is perhaps one of the best ways to teach your child to do the same.
I sought the guidance of an expert child psychologist to understand how I can cut down my child’s screen time. My kid is only 2 years old and insists on watching TV all the time. She points at my phone and does not budge until I switch it on. The expert child psychologist asked about my usage of phones especially in front of my child. That was an eye-opener! I realized that I was being such a hypocrite and setting a wrong idea for my child.
Ever since I have regulated my own usage of phone I can see a drastic change in my child’s behavior as well. “ shares Mr. Mihir Sanghavi residing in Delhi.
4. Encourage Outdoor Activities:
Promote physical activity and outdoor play. Engage your child in sports, nature exploration, and other activities that help develop physical and social skills, reducing screen time naturally.
Children often turn to phones and TV as an escape from their boredom, or simply because they have no alternatives. Plan family outdoor trips whenever possible or set up some fun activities for your child that will make them forget about their smartphone and enjoy a good day under the sun!
5. Foster Real-Life Social Connections:
Encourage your child to maintain real-life friendships and social interactions. Plan playdates, encourage group activities, and support extracurricular interests that involve face-to-face interactions. Introducing such activities from an early age can drastically boost your child’s social skills, consequently reducing their interest in staring at the screens for their daily entertainment.
6. Co-View and Co-Play:
“Co-view” and “co-play” refer to two strategies that parents can use to engage with their children while they are using screens (such as watching television or playing video games) in order to foster a healthier and more balanced relationship with technology and help protect them from screen addiction. These strategies involve active parental involvement in the child’s screen time activities:
Co-viewing: This involves parents watching television shows or movies with their children. It can also extend to streaming content together on platforms like Netflix or Disney+. Co-viewing allows parents to be aware of the content their children are consuming and provides opportunities for discussion and guidance.
Co-playing: Co-playing refers to parents actively engaging in video games or interactive apps with their children. It allows parents to participate in their children’s digital activities and guide them in making responsible choices.
7. Monitor Screen Content:
Use parental control tools and apps to monitor and restrict access to inappropriate or addictive content. Regularly review the content your child consumes. It is crucial for parents to be actively involved in their child’s upbringing but also enforce effective boundaries and demonstrate trust in the child’s ability to think and choose for themselves.
8. Seek Professional Help When Needed:
Seeking professional help for your child’s screen addiction is crucial when you observe persistent warning signs and behaviors that indicate a significant problem. Some warning signs to look out for include:
- Neglecting Responsibilities: If your child consistently neglects schoolwork, chores, or other responsibilities due to excessive screen time.
- Social Isolation: If they withdraw from family and friends, preferring to spend most of their time online.
- Physical Health Issues: When your child experiences physical health problems like sleep disturbances, headaches, or eyestrain due to excessive screen use.
- Emotional and Behavioral Changes: If there are noticeable mood swings, irritability, anxiety, or depression linked to screen use.
- Lack of Control: When your child is unable to control their screen time despite multiple attempts or promises to do so.
- Deceptive Behavior: If your child lies or hides their screen time activities, which can indicate they know it’s problematic.
- Decline in Academic Performance: If their school grades begin to suffer due to excessive screen use.
- Loss of Interest in Other Activities: When your child loses interest in hobbies, sports, or activities they previously enjoyed.
- Preoccupation with Screens: If they are constantly thinking about or planning their next screen time session.
- Escalation in Screen Time: When screen time increases over time, surpassing healthy limits
Consulting an expert child psychologist can be the right solution when you notice these warning signs. Child counselors or therapists specializing in addiction and behavioral issues can provide several benefits:
- Assessment: Professionals can assess the extent and impact of screen addiction on your child’s life and overall well-being.
- Individualized Treatment Plans: Counselors can create customized treatment plans tailored to your child’s specific needs and circumstances.
- Skill Building: They teach your child essential skills to manage screen time effectively, including time management, self-control, and coping strategies.
- Behavioral Modification: Therapists work on modifying problematic behaviors and identifying underlying causes or triggers.
- Family Support: Counseling can also involve family therapy to address the family dynamics and establish healthier screen time routines.
- Education: Both parents and children can benefit from education about the dangers of screen addiction and the importance of balance.
- Support and Accountability: Counselors provide ongoing support and accountability to help your child make positive changes.
- Co-occurring Issues: If there are underlying mental health issues contributing to the addiction, counselors can identify and address them.
- Relapse Prevention: Therapists help develop strategies to prevent relapse and maintain healthier screen habits.
If you notice the warning signs of screen addiction in your child, it’s essential to take them seriously and seek professional help of an expert child psychologist. Screen addiction can have long-term consequences on a child’s physical and mental health, education, and relationships. A child counselor can play a crucial role in helping your child overcome this addiction and regain a balanced and healthy life
In conclusion, as parents, it’s essential to be proactive in protecting our children from the potential dangers of screen addiction.
By following these expert child psychologist-recommended steps and fostering a balanced approach to screen time, we can help our children grow and thrive in a healthy, screen-conscious environment. Remember, a well-informed and engaged parent is a child’s best ally in the digital age.
Hi parent! We know you try your best every single day. But let’s face it, things can get too overwhelming at times, right? Well, you don’t have to be alone. By talking to an expert child psychologist you can get the right guidance you need to ensure optimal development and happiness of your child. In fact, child counseling also gives the space to discuss your fears, feelings, and experiences.