Technology

7 ways to help your technology dependent child as he/ she returns to school

Written by Pragya Lodha
Published: March 9, 2022

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The Mumbai Program Director & Clinical Psychologist at The MINDS Foundation. Honorary Associate Editor for the Indian Journal of Mental Health with over 100 National and International publications

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Does your child spend most of the day on their phone, laptop, or tablet? This behaviour has become increasingly common as parents across the country grow worried about technology addiction, especially as children go back-to-school. 

Most children have had their entire lives shifted online due to lockdowns and restrictions, which has prevented them from attending in-person school, playing outside, and meeting their friends. Several studies conducted in India have shown that technology usage in children has gone up significantly since the beginning of COVID, with children averagely spending 50 hours a week on their devices, and 48% of children showing some level of addiction to the internet. This drastic lifestyle change has led to the overuse of technology and negative health effects for many.

Some signs that your child is becoming dependent on technology are if they obsessively check their phone, forgo sleep in order to spend time online, disobey rules regarding technology use, become irritated and angry when not using technology, or lose track of time when they are online. These behaviours can lead to attention issues from constant stimulation, isolation and depression from lack of social interaction, and weight gain and body image issues from the lack of physical activity. After years of online schooling, parents can take some steps to address their child’s technology dependence and make the transition back-to-school easier for them. 

Here Are 7 Ways To Reduce Your Child’s Dependency On Technology:

  1. Be reasonable. A common mistake parents make is suddenly taking their child’s gadgets away or demanding they stop using technology entirely. This is unrealistic and difficult for children today, who now have schooling, entertainment, and socialization on their devices. Understand the role technology plays in their life. 
  1. Set ground rules. Set reasonable rules of technology usage that work in your household. For example, you can tell your child to not use their devices before bedtime, only use them in the living room, or set a time limit of technology usage outside of school work. You can also ask them to log their usage hours so that they learn accountability. 
  1. Address the problem. The first step you should take is to address your concern with your child. Tell them honestly that you are concerned about their technology habits and explain how you think it negatively impacts them. Listen to their thoughts and be prepared for them to feel threatened and react emotionally, but stay calm and supportive. It is important for both parents to be on the same page. 
  1. Educate yourself. Spend some time learning about the benefits and dangers of technology use, and take note of what appropriate and inappropriate technology use is. Go online, and see what your child sees when they use social media or video games. This will give you better insight when talking to your children, and help set their behaviour into context of what they are being exposed to online.
  1. Get help if you need it. If your child is showing signs of technology addiction, it may be a sign of obsessive or compulsive behaviour, attention issue, or other psychological issue such as depression or anxiety that needs addressing. In these cases, it is best to reach out to a school counselor or family doctor to ask for advice. Help is always available.  
  1. Lead by example. If you spend your free time scrolling through social media, your child will learn to model this behaviour and do the same. Lead by example and do different activities in your free time, while trying to include your child in them as well. 
  1. Do replacement activities. Try finding fun activities for the whole family to replace time they would usually spend playing video games or browsing the internet. This reduces their technology dependence and increases social bonding, which can improve their mental health. You can try family game night or play their favourite sport together. 

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References:

  • Mustafa, M., Rose, N., & Ishak, A. (2020). Internet Addiction and Family Stress: Symptoms, Causes and Effects. Journal Of Physics: Conference Series1529(3), 032017. doi: 10.1088/1742-6596/1529/3/032017
  • Schulz van Endert, T. (2021). Addictive use of digital devices in young children: Associations with delay discounting, self-control and academic performance. PLOS ONE16(6), e0253058. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0253058
  • Seema, R., Heidmets, M., Konstabel, K., & Varik-Maasik, E. (2021). Development and Validation of the Digital Addiction Scale for Teenagers (DAST). Journal Of Psychoeducational Assessment, 073428292110563. doi: 10.1177/07342829211056394
  • Singh, S., Enagandula, R., Adgaonkar, G., Subramanyam, A., & Kamath, R. (2018). Study of internet addiction in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and normal control. Industrial Psychiatry Journal27(1), 110. doi: 10.4103/ipj.ipj_47_17Tso, W., Reichert, F., Law, N., Fu, K., de la Torre, J., & Rao, N. et al. (2022). Digital competence as a protective factor against gaming addiction in children and adolescents: A cross-sectional study in Hong Kong. The Lancet Regional Health – Western Pacific20, 100382. doi: 10.1016/j.lanwpc.2022.100382

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