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What to do to stop your child's addiction of gadgets

My child is always on the phone messaging friends. My child is addicted to social media. My child is always on the game console. Do these sound familiar? Do they describe your child? Embrace these simple techniques to fight the addiction of gadgets in your children.

I settled down with a mug of hot chocolate, imported from Belgium. It had been a lovely evening; the meal had been a gastronomic delight. My friend, as always, had been a wonderful host. The only sore point (if I may call it so) were the couple's children's persistent pestering for permission to use the tablet, the smartphone, the internet. One is a pre-teen, and the other much younger.

The parents kept refusing, but kids being kids, kept coming back. Finally, the parents relented and gave in to their demands. Post which, a stimulating discussion ensued, between us.

The couple voiced their concern over their children's addiction of gadgets. They were worried about them not studying and their falling grades. And of course, the effects the screen time would have on their eyes and development.

Gadget addiction in children

Gadget addiction in young children and adults is a growing problem. Some parents are worried about their children's addiction to social media, others with their addiction of the smartphone. In either case, the addiction is the same. Today's youngsters use technology freely, to the point that it has become their mode of communication.

It's fascinating to watch their nimble fingers type messages over WhatsApp, even while they are engaged in other things. But, it's worrisome too, especially when the exchange of messages continues non-stop.

What I witnessed at my friend's place was not a one-off incident. I've seen the same scenario unfold, in other homes too. Children are clearly addicted to gadgets. But, why is it so?

The role of the parents

I believe that parents are responsible for their children's addiction. They wouldn't like to believe it, but they are part of the problem.

To understand my claim better, you must watch YouTube videos of toddlers, still in diapers, imitating adults, tapping the keyboard and moving the mouse. Videos of toddlers gesticulating and pacing up and down the living room, talking gibberish perhaps like their working parents. The uncanny resemblance to adult behaviour is hilarious, but if you look deeper, you'll notice that they are copying the adults in their lives.

Anyway, as the discussion, at my friend's, progressed I suggested two methods that could help them tackle the problem. I am sharing the same with you.

Parenting little people

The little people are at an impressionable age, with everything an experience. Kids at this age are easy to mould and shape; they pick up things quite quickly and you could have your life sorted if you begin parenting little people the right way.

Children, in their early years, learn from watching their parents. They pick up the subtle nuances of life by just observing their parents. Standards and ethics, rules and norms are picked up easily. It doesn't end there, they also emulate our language, and learn to use the same phrases, tones and expressions as their parents. They adopt their parent's peculiar behaviour and a lot else. These little people are ready to clone their adult companions. And it's all quite cute, right!

Well, maybe not quite. The same sweetness overload that you love can soon become the bane of your life. The kids aren't going to stop at learning just the adorable stuff, they'll continue aping everything you do. And they'll soon be wanting the smartphones that they see you and the other adults using. They are forever surrounded by gadget addicted adults; clicking snaps, playing games, browsing, chatting and talking, and maybe ignoring the little people.

All this makes them believe that smartphones are something really important. They want the same kind of connection with the gadget as you do. Do you see the connection?

Solution to the problem

Parents of little people must develop effective strategies. For instance, talk about what you are doing, while using the phone, particularly when you are around your young child. This goes for all the other devices you use. Always articulate what you are doing. Each time you pick up the phone or log into any of the other devices, verbalise what you are using the device for. Ask them if they'd like to observe what you are doing. Here are a few methods that can be tried –

  • "I have to send daddy a text message reminding him to pick up my medicine from the pharmacy. Do you want to tell daddy something too?"
  • "You look so cute, can I click a snap of you, please?"
  • "I'm checking my phone for directions to the fair. Do you want to look at what I am doing?"
  • "I need to check my emails, I am expecting important communication."
  • "Let me check the weather forecast before we go to the zoo."

You may want to question the sanity of verbalising and getting the young ones involved in your gadget-based activities. "Won't that get them 'more' interested in technology", is a thought that just popped into your head.

I'll go back to the basic premise discussed earlier, that of kids imitating their parents. This exercise is not so much for the young children, as much as it is for you. The verbalisation will help you realise your dependence on gadgets; it will highlight your unnecessary attachment to your phone. The point is, do you really need to be with these gadgets, all the time?

This will make you step outside your body, figuratively, of course, to watch the influence you have on your young children. The revelation will divulge the source behind the child's gadget addiction.

You, unwittingly 'normalise' the use of technology for your kids. If you are with smart devices, for the most part of the day, the children see it as a good thing. They just follow in your footsteps. So, examine the practices that you unknowingly engage in; you are setting the acceptable standard.

Parenting pre-teens

This friend couple, like many other people in my circle, have a rule on how much screen time the kids are allowed. They have strict rules about when they can use the computer or how much television they can watch or when they can be on the game console etc. Having rules is a good thing, it brings in clarity, and prevents unnecessary arguments.

If rules were in place, why were the kids constantly seeking permission to use computer devices? It was clear to see that the parents didn't have any rules for themselves. They had their phones, placed right next to their dinner plates, at the table. They checked each new notification, even as we had our dinner.

This clearly sends out a wrong message. Kids surely would be as eager to check what is happening in their groups. They too would want to be constantly engaged in their social media accounts. And pre-teens see it as hypocrisy, on part of the parents, to not allow them to do what they are doing openly.

How do you remedy it

It is not difficult to curb the usage of gadgets, you just need to set rules for everyone – both parents and the children. Yes, parents need to lead by example.

Here is what can be done. Get your children involved in drafting the rules. It is much easier to make them follow the rules that they help to create. You'll notice that when the task of making the rules is delegated to them, they make pretty stringent rules. Once you have their draft in your hand, you can begin tweaking it, in consultation with them. You'll have to remember to play fair, and the rules should not favour you, because you are the parent.

For example, no using the phone on the dining table and no using the phone during study time, are pretty acceptable rules. Next negotiate the things they are ready to give up, for some extra time with gadgets, at the same time ensure that there is a balance created for healthy activities. Also, decide the consequences, applicable to anyone who breaks the rules.

Stress on the fact that you will need to check the phone, in case it is an important call, from work or from your parents. The kids may argue that they need that privilege too. To this, you can say that their calls are not emergencies or important and can wait. Workaround the conditions. Take only the important calls, and abide by the rules. Same goes for the computer and other devices. Lay down ground rules that you and your children can follow.

Parenting past addiction

We as parents do not lead by example. We are blind to the fact that we are a contradiction; full of detrimental practices. How can we influence our children, when we ourselves are practising unhealthy habits?

Addiction of any kind is harmful, and we know that. People across the spectrum are conscious of this fact. Yet, they fail to recognise their addictions. The topics discussed in this post are designed to help you recognise your addiction to gadgets, and through it help your children.

When you successfully fight your addiction, you are in a better position to guide and influence your children. Ask your children if they realise that their dependence on technology aka gadgets is actually an addiction. Intervention becomes all the more crucial if the child refuses to acknowledge his relationship with gadgets as an addiction.

Initiate conversations with your young adolescents on why they are constantly on the phone; or why they have this desire to be in constant touch with their friends. Show them how it is unproductive and affecting their grades and family time etc. Assist them to come up with strategies that can break this need for reliance. Teach them techniques on time-management, so they don't mess up.

Understanding the disconnect

This is an awkward stage in your child's life, they'll probably not see eye to eye with you. And their dependence on all those gadgets is a result of this. It is quite normal, it's part of growing up. Your job is to find out the 'why'.

Is your child seeking pleasure? Does your child fear being left out of the peer group? Is the child emotionally invested in the friendships? You need to get answers to these questions. You see you're by cutting the screen time, especially on the phone, you'll be cutting off his lifeline.

Don't be a draconian parent, who expects their word to be law. At the same time agree to everything your children want. Be an in-between! The main take away from all this is that good parenting is about assisting kids to steer through life, without hitting too many bumps. It is also about setting boundaries that involve rules and provide direction. All this is possible when you have the lines of communication open, at all times. Discipline your children in the right way, and one day, they'll thank you for it.

Parenting is not an easy task; it's a roller coaster ride, be prepared to enjoy it. There will be anxious moments as well as exhilaration; so good luck!

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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