I had recently gone out with the family for dinner at a restaurant. While we were waiting for the order, I happen to observe that the majority of people sitting on the tables were into their mobile. There was a family of 4, each one having a mobile in their hand and were glued to the screens and were not even talking to each other. A familiar scenario, I guess, that each one has witnessed or have been a part of ourselves. Mobile Addiction is on the rise, especially in children and teenagers.
How should we as parents deal with it? Do you know that in research, Microsoft found out that today the average attention span of a human is only 8 seconds, and one of the major reasons for it is an addiction to gadgets, TV, cell phones, etc. It is a grave cause of concern and parents regularly approach me on ways to get their children off the mobile phones. Before we look into the specific steps let us first understand as to why children today get addicted to their mobile phones.
Reasons for mobile or gadget addiction in children and teenagers
- They are everywhere and easy to get
- They are engaging and fun for the children
- It gives children a sense of control, since they can choose what to do when they are playing a game or watching a video
- It provides them an escape route from the daily pressures of life like failures, bullying, fights with friends, expectations from parents, etc.
- They see their parents also glued to the screens for hours
These are some of the major contributing factors which make mobile phones or any gadget more attractive and interesting for the children.
Accept that technology is important in today’s day and age
Today, technology is a part of everything we do and is a major force on which the world depends for just about everything. We need to accept, as parents that we cannot stop our children to use technology be it mobile phones or any other gadgets. The acceptance of it is important and we should stop fighting it and embrace the reality of our times.
Be the role model
We as parents should also practice what we preach when it comes to using technology and gadgets per se. If we are sitting on laptops or are looking at our mobile phones for hours, the children will observe it and start doing so themselves. Although we might be using it for our work, we are still using it. As parents, when we are with our kids we should limit or if possible, just keep our gadgets or mobile phones aside. Be the role model and do things you want your children to follow, because the majority of things children do are based on their observations of their parents and surroundings.
Partner with other parents
This is particularly useful for parents who have smaller children and may also be dealing with mobile addiction. You can arrange playdates or just call other parents with children at your home so that they can play with each other. You would normally observe that in such a scenario kids start playing with each other and will more often than not forget about the mobile phone. This is because now they don’t need that phone to have fun. They have someone to play with and enjoy. That said, as parents even you should not access your gadgets during this duration, because again what you do the child will follow.
Engage them and interact with them
You may not always be able to invite people over. In such situations, you as a parent should take the initiative and engage your children in activities they enjoy. Tell them stories or tell them what you did as kids. Teach them how to play games you would play when you were as a kid. Paint with them if they enjoy painting, just have fun and you will see how much of an impact it will have. It will not only keep the child and you as well away from the gadgets but will also help to strengthen the bond between you as parents and the children.
Find suitable substitutes
You may also find other things that the children would enjoy doing. Like in the point mentioned above, find ways to keep them engaged. If they enjoy reading give them books or if they enjoy music take them to a place where they can get exposed to the kind of music they like and you will see that once they get engaged in these activities they like, the mobile phone will not be missed.
Teach them how to use it with responsibility
As mentioned earlier, you cannot completely stop them from using it, however, if you teach them how to use it with responsibility the kids are smart enough to know what to do and what not to do. Teach them about cybercrime and how scamsters might trick them into doing things that they may regret it later on. Tell them about various marketing tactics game companies or apps use to make sure they are glued to their screens. Also, educate them and empower them with knowledge about what they should see and what is prohibited (of course with sound logic and reasoning) for them to see on their mobile phones. You would be amazed at how responsible the kids could be if they know the pros and cons of using gadgets as well as mobile addiction.
Use technology to channelize their abilities in the right direction
The technology is just a tool and how one uses it determines whether it is useful or harmful. The same mobile phone can be used to show children videos about things that they are passionate about. Let’s say if your child is passionate about programming and coding software, you can channelize this interest of theirs and make them learn these skills. There are many videos and websites available freely online that teach how to do things and you can help your child learn things that he/she is interested in.
As a parent, try and keep your child engaged and interested in things around. Also, don’t fight technology but as said use it for your benefit. That’s what will help your children fight this monster of mobile addiction.