“For the last time, no taking calls or checking messages during dinner time.”
“Wait, instead of studying, you were playing games online?!”“Why don’t you go out and talk to real people instead of staying cooped up at home with your laptop?”
If you have had the cause to direct any of the above statements at your children, then you, like me, may already have a strong suspicion that your child is perhaps getting too addicted to their device/s.
Generation Y has become inseparable from their devices. Phones clutched in the palms of their hands, they act like their lives depend on their gadgets and have this phobia of losing out on life (FOMO- fear of missing out, anyone?) with earphones always plugged in their ears. Some of them have already started wearing the smart watch- what better way to gather the best of real-time updates from social media platforms along with the time of the day?
All these devices paired or otherwise, mean something critical is wrong. Young users are devoting an unusually disproportionate part of their time to such devices. Much of it is often at the cost of academics, sports, hobbies and offline socialising. Children spend hours using their devices, quite oblivious to the real people in the real world around them. Excessive use of the net or device, which interferes with normal life, is termed as internet addiction. Like any other psychological condition, this problem calls for professional attention. Today, the question that every parent has is how much is too much? Is 2-3 hours a day online fine for tweens? Or 7-8 hours of gaming OK for young adults on weekends? Does a tween need to spend some time daily chatting and surfing?
And most importantly, when should I as a parent draw the line?
Moving on to the more difficult territory of how should I react if they get abusive and rebellious when asked to stay off the internet? For one, we don’t want our children to ever reach that stage and therefore our aim should always be to ensure that children use devices, but in a balanced manner, so that they become responsible users. We need to make it clear to them that overuse is akin to abuse.
Some of the signs of developing device/net addiction among children can be diagnosed if they:
- Spend long hours on the net; no interest in any other activity
- Are reserved and generally quiet in real life situations but surprisingly very active and chatty on networking platforms
- Lose sense of time when playing games online
- Consider their earphones to have become an additional appendage
- Feel that social events bore them and would prefer to sit at a corner glued to their device in the rare occasion of them attending one social event in real life
- Look drowsy and dull
- Suffer from headaches and red-eye syndrome due to lack of sleep
- Suffer from a drop in academic performance
- Uses phone or tab or laptop secretly at night to play games, chat, message
- Get agitated if device is taken away or forced to spend time away from it
Once you’ve identified and ascertained that these things are happening it is time to take a stand. As they often say, prevention is better than cure, so it’s best not to let the problem get out of hand. The trick is to start at the very beginning, when your toddler is just becoming interested in gadgets and devices.
Get off the device, get a life!!
You heard me right. This is what you can try to tell your child but only in a more logical and subtle manner. Try an extra scoop of love and sprinkle the sweetness of patience. However stay firm too!
Here are a few tips to ensure that your children lead a balanced digital life?
- Be strict about time limits for gadget use, right from the start
- Sit down to have a chat with kids, laying down general house rules for device use and specially for internet usage
- Remain firm about your decisions by not letting your child take undue advantage of your affection
- Spend some time daily with the child, striking a conversation is key towards having healthy discussions
- Get your child interested in sports, hobbies, reading and make sure he/she spends allotted time on these activities
- Introduce digital detox time for kids e.g. dinner time and Sundays when all devices must be kept away and this time must be spent with family or friends in real life
- Using devices post bedtime is a strict no-no; never allow your child to bend this rule
- Try to keep a close watch over their activities online; you want to be on the same page as them and help them become a safe and responsible device and net user
- Fix exact timings for project work research so you don’t get fooled
- If you feel your child is lying or using someone else’s device, tackle it immediately. Don’t ignore
It is very much necessary and important for parents to be a part of the digital lives of their children. Of course, it goes without telling that all your connected devices should have comprehensive security software running with parental controls activated. Only then will you be able to monitor any untoward activities that children may be engaging with, online and in real-time.
Here’s to Digital Wellness of Generation Y.