In today’s world, children are easily addicted to smartphones. Just like the rest of us too.
This is because smartphones have become extremely easy and convenient to use. Even for children. It is not surprising to hear that a child as young as one year old can hold a phone and start swiping.
We know, smartphones can be quite handy for parents. They can be used to help your child learn new skills and languages. There are videos, apps, games, and songs that can educate and entertain your child.
And sometimes, parents tend to give their children smartphones to keep them entertained or occupied. Especially when they feel tired after work.
Despite these, it is important to make sure that smartphones are used sparingly. They should not be your child’s best friend.
Irresponsible use of smartphones can be harmful to your child in the long run.
If you find that your child is constantly glued to the phone and doesn’t like doing anything else, then it is definitely time for you to intervene and do something about their smartphone addiction.
But let’s look at a few possible reasons why your child got addicted to smartphones in the first place:
1 – They See their Parents Glued to Smartphones
Children learn by watching and imitating. When your child watches you being glued to the phone all the time, they learn to do the same.
They will start asking for your phone and learn how to operate them. Some of the red flags include when they start getting addicted to watching videos, playing games, and so on.
These evolve into a habit, and if not careful, gradually turns into an addiction.
2 – It Provides Instant Gratification
Just like adults, children get instant pleasure from smartphones. Everything they want is there. From games to nursery rhymes, their favorite cartoons, it’s all there in one place.
When they are entertained, they feel happy and then crave more of the same activity. This leads to them finding it difficult to let go of the phone and turn to other more relaxing activities, because they’re addicted to your smartphone.
3) Parents Use it as a Tool for Easy Distraction
Be it for parents or babysitters, smartphones are super handy when it comes to keeping a child occupied.
Many parents would give their child a phone when they are grumpy or throwing a tantrum – and it works almost immediately. Your child calms down and they become glued to the screen.
This could be the beginning of your child being addition to smartphones.
But that’s a bad habit. These little but frequent instances of distracting your child with a smartphone can feed into their addiction and pose a long term problem.
So what happens when your child is addicted to smartphones? Is it really so bad? The short answer is yes, it really is.
Being addicted to smartphones from a young age can cause several problems for you and your child.
For starters, smartphone addiction can drastically affect a parent’s relationship with their child.
When your child is glued to the phone, they spend less time communicating with you. They don’t interact much with the people around them. This will also affect their social and communication skills as they become more passive.
From there, they become disinterested in social activities like going out and playing with friends. And then there’s a risk that they might become a poor listener with difficulties in carrying a conversation or getting a point across.
Due to this, your child might have problems making friends and will start isolating themselves.
Side-effect of a child who is addicted to smartphones
Aside from that, smartphone addiction will also take a toll on their health. Studies show that children are 60% more prone to absorbing radiation because their brain has thinner skin and tissues. This can disturb your child’s brain activity and cause behavioural problems which will cause difficulty in their learning process.
As we have mentioned earlier, using smartphones provides instant pleasure for your children, which results in them wanting more. This can cause problems such as sleeping difficulties and subsequently, attention difficulties in class.
If you think your child suffers from smartphone addiction, don’t panic. It’s usually not too late to help them. Just follow these few steps to help your child combat their smartphone addiction.
1 – Do Not Use Smartphones as a Parenting Tool
It is common for parents to introduce smartphones to young children and in some cases even before they even turn 1 year old. It comes in handy to distract the child and keep them occupied. But this can become a serious problem and it can turn into an addiction that they carry into their adulthood.
When your child cries or throws a tantrum, be patient and try to communicate with them. Come up with creative ways to distract them instead of handing them a smartphone to shut them up. Of course, this is harder done than said and requires lots of discipline.
If you do allow your child to use smartphones, make sure they use it actively. That means, instead of just giving the phone to your child, sit with them and watch the videos together, interact with them, and help them understand what’s going on. That way, your child will learn how to interact with the media instead of being a passive observer.
At the end of the day, it’s really about discipline and policing the content that your child watches on a smartphone.
2) Limit Screen Time and Curate Content for Your Child
There’s no doubt that smartphones serve as a learning tool for your child. But it’s also a double-edged sword and that depends on the type of content your child consumes.
This is why it’s important to set a limited screen time for your child every day. Come out with a schedule that allows up to perhaps half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening.
Again, make sure you are in full control of the types of videos they watch and the applications they use. An additional thing you could do is to use parental control apps to keep track of their activity and limit their access to certain apps.
3) Create Phone-Free Zones
Another thing you can do is to create phone-free zones around the house. This applies to both you and your child.
For example, make it a rule that no smartphones are to be allowed in the dining room or when having dinner. Create phone-free days as well, where a day like Sunday should be spent together rather than on the screen.
4) Come Up with Fun Activities
Ironically, the best way to keep phones away from your child is to keep them busy with other activities, so that they are not even thinking about it.
As adults, you can probably relate to this during the days where you were engrossed in an activity that you completely forgot to check your phone.
Encourage your child to go out and play. Come up with fun activities for them that involve physical exercises, such as sports. Bring them to the pool or the playground. Arrange playdates. Or let them help you in the kitchen.
Children have lots of energy in them and you would need to find a way to help them disperse that active energy. The opportunity here is to turn these activities into moments for learning too.
5) Communicate with Your Child
Do not just confiscate the phone or completely ban them from using it. Communicate with your child and strike a deal. For example, they get to use the phone once a day after nap time to watch their favourite cartoons.
When you tell them that the time is up, they should return the phone and only get to it the next day.
It’s even better if you can talk to your child about why they should not spend so much time on the phone. Explain to them that there are other ways, besides the phone to have fun and play games.
6) Lead by Example
This is by far the biggest thing to do. None of the tips above would work if you as a parent are always glued to the phone. Children learn from observing their surroundings and by imitating their parent’s behaviour.
Make sure that you are not always on the phone in front of your child. Respect the phone-free zones and do not use it in the kitchen or dining room. Limit your screen time at home. Set a dedicated time to check your notifications.
When engaging in activities with your child, put your phone on silent or keep it away from you. This will also help you spend more quality time with your child and bring you two closer.
Hopefully, these tips will help your child get over their smartphone addiction. Their early years are important and it is up to you to make sure that they are given the right guidance and support.
Remember, parents play a big part in nurturing the habits of their child. Helping children curb their addiction to smartphones always begin at home.