Ep. 2: Dealing with Electronic Device Addiction
In this episode, Dr. Deborah Burton shares her concerns about the growing epidemic of electronic device addiction in kids. This electronics obsession can impact all aspects of life, including at home, at school and in the physician’s office. Based on the daily struggle Dr. Burton sees in her private practice, parents seem to be unaware that the addiction is present or that they need to do something about it.
Screen time addiction is not new
- Back in the 60s, when I was growing up, we had one TV, we wanted to watch it all the time
- My mother forced us to turn off the TV and go play. This concept should continue!
- In the 90s, when raising my girls, I had clear screen time rules. Back before it was a thing! It made sense
- No TV in bedrooms (increased the needed hours of sleep kids need at different ages)
- No TV Monday-Thursdays unless family watched together.
Cell phones are not game changes
- Cell phones are everywhere but that should not change the desire to limit their use
- You have the power to collect phones before homework is completed or during times they are not allowed. DO IT!
- If kids insist they need to phone to talk to friends about homework, give them your number and they can use your phone with your present. If it is about school work, what is the problem?
- Or if you are old school like me, you might still have a phone land line. I told my kids to have their friends call the landline to talk about homework. No one did…so I guess there was not a real need to talk!
New generation of kids raised with electronics still need control
- Plenty of debate about appropriate amounts of screen time per age group, but I recommend you set your standards and then stick to it. Many parents I see do honor the rules they made.
- But as a parent, you must help instill some degree of self-control in your kids. We do not tolerate childhood meltdowns at the store when they do not get to buy a special toy. We should not tolerate the meltdown that comes when you turn the device volume off or put away the electronic device.
- Electronic device addiction is present when kids cannot entertain themselves for periods of times.
- If you find you constantly struggle to keep their devices charged, always look for outlets and constantly ask for wifi passwords, you may be dealing with an electronic device addiction. Why can’t you go places without feeling pressure to keep kids entertained with electronics?
- If yourself apologizing to your physician when your child falls on the floor and arches her back because you put away the cell phone, you may have a child with an electronic device addiction.
Tips for dealing with electronic device addiction in kids
- At home, practice randomly taking away the device and requiring kids to entertain themselves with other things
- Vary the amount of time that you are removing the device so it is not predictable
- Do not let your child know the device is going to be removed as this resembles how they need to deal with a device that has a dead battery. This should not be a crisis1
- Practice only using devices with no sound or only using headphones
- AND…get control of your own electronic device addiction!
How parent electronic device addiction impacts kids
- I mentioned that you should avoid searching for outlets and chargers for kids, but are you constantly looking to charge your phone?
- Do you hold your phone on your lap while you are talking to the physician? Have you looked down to check an incoming text WHILE the physician is talking?
- Parents should keep their phones in purses or in a pocket to avoid using it. This is true in many situations but particularly during the short physician office visit.
- If an important call or text is coming to let you know another child has arrived home safely, then you can let the physician know and quickly check.
Examples of unacceptable electronic manners (especially in physician’s office)
- Unplugging anything so that you have room to plug in your device. NEVER do this!
- Repeatedly looking down at cell phone in your hand or lap to check incoming messages
- Using any electronic devices with the volume turned up. They should always be silent or used with headphones
- Talking on your phone and when the physician enters, holding up your finger and saying “hold on for a minute”. Seriously? Never. You are there to meet with the physician. When she enters, unless there is a life-threatening emergency, you must tell the caller you have to go, and then promptly hang up.
Because I continue to be flabbergasted by how aggressive kids get when their devices are taken away or volume turned off, I feel this is a topic I will be discussing for a long time.
I have previously blogged about rude electronic device manners and made some suggestions on quiet activities kids can use. We all have different parenting styles but in your style find some way to address this topic with your kids.
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