Technology, in the form of smartphones and the Internet, has slowly taken over the world, and children are as vulnerable to its addictive grasp as adults are. Given that a child’s mind is still fragile, it is important for parents to prevent their children from getting addicted to technology.
The most common activities that children who are addicted to technology do are:
- Play video games frequently
- Use and download apps
- Chat with friends constantly
- Keep updating information on social networking sites
Signs of tech-addiction in a child
So, how do you determine whether your child is making healthy use of technology or becoming addicted to it? Apart from being constantly on the phone or the computer, the following symptoms are common in tech-addicts:
- Poor performance in academics
- Lack of interest in other activities
- Inability to interact normally with peers and adults
- Lack of energy and a lingering drowsiness at all times of the day
If you notice these symptoms in your child, it’s time to take stock of the situation and try to change it.
Here are some tips to help you make sure that he gets over his addiction of technological gadgets:
- Don’t let gadgets turn into playthings
If your child is between 3 and 6 years, try not to use gadgets such as mobile phones and laptops in front of the child, let alone allow him to play with them. Get him other non-tech toys to play with and try to keep the gadgets away from his reach, or if possible, away from his sight. Spend more time with him doing other useful and fun-filled activities such as reading and exercising, which are essential for his development at this stage.
- Encourage spending time outdoors
Introduce your child to the wonders of nature from an early age as it will help develop a love for the outdoors in her. Engage her in interesting games like scavenger hunts or hide-and-seek, as often as you can. Motivate her to excel in outdoor sports, if your child shows interest in them and has the stamina to pursue them seriously. If she likes activities such as gardening, trekking or sports, chances are she will be less hooked on to gadgets.
- Help develop hobbies from an early age
Another way to ensure that your child does not spend too much time on the Internet is to help him find enjoyment and fulfilment in other interesting and rewarding activities. Pursuing and mastering skills such as singing, dancing, painting, reading and writing, will help him create a world of his own outside the virtual world.
- Do not gift gadgets to your child
Till your child reaches the age of 18, make it a point not to gift her smartphones, tablets, iPad or even laptops. Do not offer them as rewards for good performance in academics or any other field, as school life does not require children to make extensive use of these gadgets.
- Limit the use of technology
It may not be possible or even advisable to cut off your child’s engagement with the Internet completely, especially when she is older and needs to access the Web for academic work. However, it is important to restrict the amount of time she spends online. Set aside an hour during the day, at the most, for using the Internet. Allow for about fifteen to twenty minutes of unstructured browsing but make sure your child doesn’t go beyond that. Make it a rule not to touch smartphones or laptops for at least two hours before bedtime. Similarly, do not allow use of gadgets immediately after waking up in the morning.
- Encourage productive use of the Internet in a limited time
If your child is old enough to understand, explain to him both the pros and cons of using the Internet, so that he appreciates the importance of making the most of his time online, while learning to consciously avoid misusing it. Involve your child in making a list of activities that he should and shouldn’t do online. By doing this, you will help him stay away from activities that are unproductive and addictive. Most importantly, forbid your child from entering social networking sites till he is 18. Also, discourage the use of chatting apps to communicate with friends. Instead, encourage him to connect with friends in the real world.
- Create gadget-free zones at home
Organise your home in such a way that there are no laptops or desktops in your child’s bedroom, study area or the dining area. Instruct your child not to carry phones, laptops or other gadgets into the gadget-free zones. Do not allow her to take gadgets to bed or to the dining table.
- Have ‘no gadget’ days often
On weekends, holidays and during vacations, encourage your child to break free from technology altogether for some time. Explain to him how staying away from gadgets can be beneficial to both his physical and mental health. Switch off the Wi-Fi or other sources of Net during this time. Motivate him to engage in relaxation activities like reading during the time allotted for Internet usage on regular days.
- Lead by example
Remember that your child watches all your actions and is likely to take cues from your use of smartphones and computers. If she observes that you are hooked on to gadgets, she may not take you seriously when you tell her to stay off them. So, do not set a bad example regarding the use of technology.
While you may need to be a little strict to help your children overcome their obsession with technology, a heart-to-heart talk about the necessity for such measures with your child can help him understand your reasons behind the rules.
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