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Friday, May 19, 2017

Digital Addiction (Part 2) By Trisha Roberts

Digital Technology can be addicting

There is a way out of digital addiction

Digital Addiction can be overcome, but it takes work

Last week we discussed what Digital Addiction is and how pervasive screen usage has become. Research and anecdotal information is showing that early exposure to this form of stimulation can be more detrimental than helpful.

Let’s be honest.  After a long day at work, it is much easier to hand a child an IPad than engage them in a family activity.  A video game is often cheaper than a babysitter.  Planning creative play takes time.  It is easy to rationalize with, “It’s educational”, so it must be good.  Many parents struggle with staying off their devices themselves and feel guilty denying their children when they are frequently distracted by technology. 

Early screen use should be limited

There seems to be an urgent desire or need to "check in" with our social media. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a new term that has surfaced to describe this.  Wikipedia defines it as,  "a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent".  This social angst is characterized by "a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing"."  The problem with this type of behavior is that a person is no longer actively participating in life!  Instead of focusing on their present situation with all of its potential pleasure and enjoyment, they are worried about what others might be experiencing without them! We become "glued" to our screens!

Preoccupation with screens causes us to not be available in the here and now

From a Physical Therapist’s point of view, frequent use of electronic devices is very unhealthy.  First of all, children are being encouraged to participate in sedentary activities rather than the activities that lead to better strength, balance, and motor control needed for a lifetime of good health. Kids are at risk for “repetitive use” injuries to their fingers, wrists, and hands.

Healthy development involves imaginative play, creativity, social interaction, engagement with nature. Children need to develop healthy relationships with parents, peers, and siblings. Conversation doesn't develop when looking at a screen--it develops with time spent one-on-one, face-to-face!

Make time to talk with your kids!


  • Keep your children from getting addicted in the first place! 
  • Don’t buy a tablet for your child until they are at least 10 years old. Remember, you are the parent and you hold the purse strings!!  (You would not buy a 6 year old a Corvette just because they pleaded for one--they are not old enough to reach the pedals nor responsible enough to drive!)
  • Limit screen time to 15 minutes per day for younger children and adjust for older children
  • Sit and play and educational game WITH your children then turn the screen off and put it away.
  • Tie Internet use to completion of homework or chores.
  • When you have a quiet moment, write out a list of fun, active things to do.  Put them on slips of paper and put them in a jar.  Let kids pick a slip every day and do the corresponding activity.  (This could be very helpful when you are arriving home from work and trying to get supper on the table!)
  • Try a "Token" System:  Issue a set number of tokens that correspond to minutes of Internet use per week. Add additional minutes for stellar behavior or let children earn more minutes by completing additional chores.  Take away minutes for poor behavior or uncompleted homework/chores.
  • Discuss with your children why you are limiting their access to electronic devices.
  • Play a card game, board game or puzzle inside, take a walk outside, or kick a ball around.
  • Don’t buy a smart phone until your child is a teenager.  (If they need a phone to stay in touch with parents, arrange after-school activities, etc., consider a “non-smart” phone with the ability to make a phone call and nothing else!)
  • Place computers in public areas of the house rather than in children’s bedrooms.
  • Require that all devices be placed outside of bedroom doors at a set hour of the night.
  • Set a timer on the modem to limit Internet access to given hours of the day/night.
  • Eat meals without any devices, including television.  Concentrate on conversation! Read our article on, "Making Meal Time Great!".

If you suspect that your child is already "addicted", contact your pediatrician and plan a course of action!

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