Here’s Why Phone Addiction Should Worry You and What You Can Do
Apple said that it plans to make its parental control tools more robust.
Apple said that it plans to make its parental control tools more robust.(Photo: iStock)

Here’s Why Phone Addiction Should Worry You and What You Can Do

It’s 2018. Chances are your 5-year-old knows more about your phone than you do. Kids get access to smartphones, tablets and laptops sooner than they are able to run.

Ten years ago, no one would've anticipated how much technology would dominate every aspect of our lives. Not even the tech giants who created this technology. So, it’s interesting when the investors of those same companies warn against tech addiction.

Two major Apple investors have urged the iPhone maker to take some action against smartphone addiction among children.

In response, Apple said that it plans to make its parental control tools more robust.

(Watch our live on tech addiction with a child psychiatrist below.)

Also Read: Is Your Child Vulnerable on the Web? Look out for These Signs

What Can Apple Do to Address Addiction?

Tech companies make their products in a way that a user spends as much time as possible on their gadget, software or social media site.

However, in their official statement Apple said iPhone and its other devices already offer a variety of controls that enable parents to restrict or block “effectively anything a child could download or access online”, reports The Associated Press (AP).

But the problem of tech addiction goes beyond just parental control on what the child is doing on the phone, to how long the child is on that phone in the first place.

James Steyer, the CEO of Common Sense Media, was quoted by AP as saying that Apple is in a position to do more. Among other things, he said, Apple can finance independent research on the effects of mobile phone use and pay for public education campaigns that teach parents and kids about responsible technology use.

He said Apple can also design addiction-prevention features, such as an automatic shut-off after an hour.
Everything from kids’ education to recreation is being made digital.
Everything from kids’ education to recreation is being made digital.
(Photo: iStock)
One interesting quote by Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, puts things into perspective. In 2010, when asked by a reporter if his children liked the ipad, he said, “We don’t allow the iPad at home. We think it’s too dangerous for the kids.”

The reason why he said what he said was because he realised how addictive smartphones and tablets can be.

How Do You Know It’s Addiction?

We can’t dismiss the importance of keeping the kids abreast with technology since it benefits us in so many ways. Everything from their education to recreation is being made digital.

But where do we draw the line? How much is too much? When does a normal usage become addictive?

Also Read: Are You Addicted to Gaming? WHO Recognises It as a Mental Disorder

Let’s face it. Tech addiction is real. There’s scientific evidence that suggests that just like other drugs, gadgets, gaming and social media can give you a dopamine kick. And it has all the signs of addiction like any other substance abuse.
Dr Amit Sen, Child Psychiatrist
<span style="white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Let’s face it. Tech addiction is real. </span>
Let’s face it. Tech addiction is real.
(Photo: iStock)

As is with any other addiction, the moment your gadgets start hampering your life, it’s serious, says Dr Amit Sen.

There are some tell-tale signs. Children will start losing sleep over it, miss meals and sometimes totally forget to eat because they’re engaged in a screen. In addition, extreme emotional outbursts and even hygiene issues like not bathing or brushing and immediately rushing to laptops and phones after waking up are worrisome.

How Does Overuse Affect Kids?

You have everything at the press of a button and instead of going out to play or engaging in other developmental activities, kids are on the phones.

Also Read: The Internet is Eating Away Your Grey Cells, Put That Gadget Down

Due to this quick access, it becomes difficult for children to focus on other things, gives rise to short attention span and easy frustration. Skills that you acquire in your formative years when you go out and play, like patience, social skills and emotional control also go out the window.
Dr Amit Sen

He adds that getting a like or a thumbs up and validation on social media at every step also makes them miss the learning of how to lose and be patient.

So What Should Parents Do?

It’s not entirely the child’s fault. Quite often it’s the parents who hand over their phones at the first sign of a tantrum. The children see their parents spending hours on the phone, scrolling, talking, tapping endlessly.

<span style="white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Don’t give your kids your phones just to keep them occupied.</span>
Don’t give your kids your phones just to keep them occupied.
(Photo: iStock)

Back in the day, there was always a certain TV time that parents gave their kids. “Just this one last show and the screen is off.” The same should apply for recreation on gadgets.

Divide the screen time into two – time spent on study and work vis-a-vis time spent on recreation. Both need to be moderated.

Here are some tips for parents by Dr Sen.

  • Don’t give your kids your phones just to keep them occupied.
  • Engage them in other activities, send them out to play.
  • Strike a balance. Technology is important but there are other developmental milestones they have to achieve.
  • Take a collaborative approach. Don’t impose your rules on the kids, make them part of the conversation.
  • The recreational screen time for a student should not be more than one hour.

It’s a tough time to raise a child. So, see what works for you best and let the tech companies figure what works best for them.

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