By Gregory J. Skibinski, LCPC, CSAT, CMAT, Agape Counseling Ltd.
Technology is not bad, but too much technology definitely is. When introducing handheld screen tech devices to children, parents and caregivers must be prepared to provide clear boundaries and limits as well as determine the consequences for misuse of such devices.
Everyone needs to be clear and on the same page even if it means writing them down as a contract or family rules. Parents must also be ready to be a role model, which means if you are asking your kids to put away their phones you must do the same.
Here are some signs that could signal a tech addiction
Increasing and persistent use of the device, leading to social withdrawal and isolation
Frequent requests to use the device, resulting in temper tantrums when the request is denied or the device is taken away
Disengagement from activities, such as insisting to go home to use the device and refusing to perform other usual daily routines (such as going to bed) to continue playing with the device
Preoccupation with certain characters found in games or videos, or spending excessive amounts of time and resources on them
Continuation of use, sneaking, or lying despite the negative consequences
Tips to prevent tech addiction
Parents and caregivers need to be prepared to be unpopular and provide clear boundaries for their children. Know that children will test those boundaries, especially if they are new. Some measures that can be taken include the following:
Limit the use of TV, computers, and mobile devices to a maximum of 30 minutes at a time. Ensure the total amount of screen time per day doesn’t exceed the age-group recommendations.
Schedule an appropriate time for using the device, and plan fun physical activities for your child to engage in at other times. Help them to learn that there is a balance.
Refrain from putting TV and electronic gadgets in your child’s bedroom, and put away such devices after use and keep it in your room until morning.
Observe “tech-free” times such as during meals, homework, and bedtime. In addition, you can designate “tech-free” zones for your child such as in the bedroom, dining area, and in the car. Establish a family game night and put all devices away.
Teach your child early about the importance of moderation. Be sure to offer praise when your child demonstrates restraint in the use of tech devices and follows the rules you’ve set.
Monitor access by using the device together with your child. See this as an opportunity to communicate, interact, and share family values.
Technology is not going away, and preventing addictive habits means finding a balance within all of our lives, but especially within the lives of adolescents and teens. Technology can be an escape from the real world challenges, emotions, socialization, or identity. When they choose to go to this escape too often and avoid the reality of life, it can lead to much bigger issues. It’s important to be aware, but also important to sit and have a conversation and know how your kids spend their time in regards to screen time use.
This is the last in a four-part series. If you missed previous articles, you may read them online www.HealthyCellsBN.com, or contact Cheryl at 309-664-2524 or Ceash7@gmail.com.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact Agape Counseling at 309-663-2229. They are a group of Christian counselors, social workers, psychologists, and support staff committed to a therapeutic process which ministers to the whole person. Their Bloomington office is located at 211 N. Veterans Parkway, (next to Krispy Kreme). They also have offices in Peoria and Morton. Visit them online at www.agapecounselors.net.
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