The growing smartphone addiction affects around 50% of teenagers in the world, 84% of which say they can’t imagine a day without their phone.
Children are more easily influenced than adults as their brains are still developing at a rapid pace. At this point, bad habits can quickly turn into characteristics. Children are not the only ones who are addicted to their smartphones. Millions of people spend most of their free time checking their social media accounts or favorite websites.
Smartphone addiction is a real thing. In fact, it’s almost as dangerous as drug addiction. You may not notice any immediate health risks, but that makes it more difficult to understand how dangerous it is. While drug addicts know that they are harming their minds and bodies, not many people are aware that the smartphones or tablets they hold in their hands 24/7 are also harmful. The side effects of smartphone use are usually underrated because we use them for many purposes on a daily basis.
Smartphones Aren’t Helping Your Kids in Any Way
We know the effect smartphones have on adults, but can you imagine the effect they have on children? It’s even scary to think about it. According to a UK-based therapist, giving your child a smartphone to distract them is similar to giving them drugs. Whatever of these items you choose to give them, they become addicted, and not getting their daily dose puts them into an agitated withdrawal.
Mandy Saligari, a rehab clinic specialist, says that parents make a huge mistake when they focus only on drugs and alcohol while ignoring smartphone addiction. Each of these addictions works on the same brain impulses.
I always say to people, when you’re giving your kid a tablet or a phone, you’re really giving them a bottle of wine or a gram of coke, she said to Independent. Are you really going to leave them to knock the whole thing out on their own behind closed doors?
Two-thirds of Salgari’s patients at the Harley Street Clinic in London are youngsters at the ages between 16 and 20, all treated for excessive use of smartphones. The results of one of her surveys showed that 1/3 of children in Britain at the ages between 12 and 15 don’t have a proper balance between screen time and other activities. In other words, spending too much time on their smartphones doesn’t allow them to get involved in activities such as music, sports, or board games.
Why Do Parents Decide to Give Smartphones to Their Children?
Most parents use their smartphones as a distraction technique, but others believe it can make their children smarter. Giving a smartphone to children between ages 2 and 5 to keep them occupied and control their tantrums will make them dependent on these devices. That’s why taking away these devices can trigger symptoms similar to narcotic withdrawal.
According to research conducted by the Sand Diego State University, excessive use of smartphones affects the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children between ages 2 and 17. Spending too much time watching videos, playing games, texting incessantly, and accessing age-inappropriate content makes them live in a virtual world. Addiction to digital technology gives children a hard time to handle themselves in the real world and control their emotions.
Parents should serve as an example to their children because what they do presents the right way to live life. Children tend to copy the behavior and actions of their parents. That’s why parents should also limit the use of their smartphone in front of their children.
What Effects Smartphone Addiction Has on Children?
This addiction may have some serious effects on children’s brains, although the symptoms don’t usually manifest physically. It’ll most likely affect the child’s psychological wellbeing. In 2012, the Chinese Academy of Sciences conducted a study that showed that Internet addiction disorder causes physical abnormalities in the brain. People diagnosed with this disorder had abnormalities in the white matter integrity in the parts of the brain that control emotional control, decision-making, and attention spans. For that reason, people with smartphone addiction often perform poorly in these areas.
We’ve all seen that smartphone addiction makes children anti-social. Remember a birthday party where all the children were too busy to play with each other because they were on their smartphones? This addiction can also lead to poor academic performance. Spending too much time on their phones doesn’t leave them enough time to study. Children with this addiction usually perform badly at arts, theatre, athletics, and other extracurricular activities.
The worst part is that they also battle frustration, depression, loneliness, exhaustion, and in some cases, hallucinations. They could watch videos or play games which contain too much profanity, violence, and nudity that their brain is not able to handle. If you take their smartphone away, they may get sick, violent, and agitated.
What about their eyesight? It may be the first thing you’ll notice it becomes deteriorated due to excessive use of smartphones. Dr. Christopher Starr, an ophthalmologist, explains that using plenty of light during screen time can cause headaches and blurry vision in children.
How to Help Children Get Over Smartphone Addiction?
1. Introduce the Old-School Games
Nowadays, children rarely go outside to play hopscotch, hide and seek, playhouse or sing songs. They are too busy playing Temple’ Run instead of tag, chess against the computer instead of playing with a real friend, or Legos on their tablets instead of arranging real blocks.
Children live in an age where everything has gone digital, but it’s your responsibility to introduce them to the old-school game tools you have at home. You can even ask other parents to join you and let children try them out together. It may take time and patience, but your child will feel the benefits of spending some quality time with friends or you as their parent. You can play cards with them and it may become their favorite activity just because they get to spend more time with you. Soon, they will start using their smartphones less often than before. Parents shouldn’t give their small children smartphones at all, but they can give them a tablet only at set times of the day.
2. Talk to Your Children
It’s important to talk to your children about the side effects of smartphone addiction. They are not aware of how dangerous it can be, so sit them down and explain to them that they may have a difficult time relating to real people and friends later in life. Encourage them to spend more time with their friends and play physical games.
3. Be an Example
Make sure you limit the use of your smartphone in front of your children to teach them to do the same thing. Don’t let your child play scrabble or arrange Legos while you scroll down your Facebook wall. Keep in mind that your mental health is also affected by the way you use your phone.
4. Screen Time Schedule
Arrange a specific time of the day when your child is allowed to use digital gadgets and smartphones. Older children should spend up to three hours a day on their phones, while little children should spend a couple of hours a day on video games or tablets. Get hold of digital gadgets and smartphones and release them only at the specific screen time schedules.
It may take some time, but you’ll notice your child falling into a healthier lifestyle and not touching a smartphone for five hours. You couldn’t ask for more in the digital era we’re living.
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