It goes without saying that there are phenomenal things technology can offer your children. More than mindless entertainment, modern day screens can serve as educational tools, and boost their chances of gainful employment as adults. But even with all its benefits, technology can too easily be overused by parents. If you find yourself suddenly realizing that you see your child behind a screen more often than not and start wondering, "Is my child addicted to our iPad?" you're not alone. More and more parents are sharing your concern.
Dr. Mike Bishop is a psychologist and executive director of Summerland Camps, a program which helps children learn to develop healthy habits with electronics. In an exclusive interview with Romper, Bishop says, "In a recent study, it was found that the average American devotes about 10 hours and 39 minutes each day to consuming media — 65 percent of awake hours. Screen activity is truly a part of American culture, and our children are becoming addicted to screen activity at an alarming rate."
According to Bishop, warning signs of addiction parents can look for include preoccupation with the device, lying or sneaking to access it, and putting off responsibilities in order to play online. Bishop explains, "Parents can recognize a problem when normal tasks of daily living are impacted, such as when playing online comes before socializing with family and peers."
Bishop recommends setting up any device (iPad or otherwise) for a child with certain agreed-upon limitations, including times of allowed use, approved websites, and parameters for social media. Children should be involved in this decision-making process, and should be helped to understand why boundaries are important.
But according to Bishop, most parents with "screen addicted" children have already tried everything to create change, but to no avail. The key, Bishop tells Romper, and what his Summerland Camps helps campers do, is to create positive goals to work towards, and help children see that meeting their life goals and endless hours of iPad browsing are not compatible. Ultimately, says Bishop, "a child needs to develop intrinsic motivation to limit their iPad use."
If you think your kid is addicted to screens, it will likely require some positive action on your part to help them set appropriate limits. Helping them find ways to pursue their interests, setting up play dates or adventures, and spending more unplugged time as a family can go a long way in helping them see that what they really want is a life filled to the brim, not spent behind a screen.