Signs That Your Child Might be Addicted to Their Smartphone
Internet addiction is as serious as any other physical or psychological dependency. Some studies suggest that it can be even worse since many psychological dependencies such as shopping or impulsive buying can already be facilitated with the Internet. Since smartphones and tablets are personal computers that children already use on a regular basis, it might take a while for parents to realize that their kids are addicted to the Internet. Using the Internet is not a bad thing. However, when Internet usage affects the overall lifestyle of a child, there is indication that there might be a problem.
Signs that a child has an online addiction
1. Spending a Lot of Time Online
As much as children use the Internet for educational and creative activities, they should not be spending most of their time online. Your child might be addicted to the Internet if they neglect their homework, household chores and sleep at odd hours just to spend more time on the Internet. They should also be active in other activities such as reading actual books, playing outdoors or hanging out with friends. If your child spends too much time online, they might be or could soon be addicted to the Internet.
2. Losing Interest in Other Activities
If your child constantly thinks of the activities that might be going on over the Internet even when they are not online, this is a cause for concern. The child loses interest in all activities that are not online and they always look forward to spending time on the Internet. This can lead to nervousness, moodiness or depression any time the child loses access or has some “hardship” from an online interaction.
3. Change in Eating or Sleeping Habits
Internet addiction affects a child’s sleeping and eating habits in different ways. The child might have sudden weight gain or sudden weight loss. They also change their sleeping habits and might tend to spend the whole night online and not fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning.
4. Lying About Internet usage
The moment that children begin lying about their online usage, there is a big problem. It shows that they have a sense of guilt about what they are doing and feel the need to hide it. It is common for Internet addicts to strongly deny that they spend too much time on the Internet and even get defensive about it. If your child is doing this, they might be addicted to the Internet.
5. Using the Internet as an Escape
This is probably the most clear sign of Internet addiction. When the child gets into an argument easily, becomes angry, irritated or does not want to do something, they turn to the Internet. They also prefer spending time on the Internet instead of staying with friends or doing other activities that they enjoyed in the past.
6. Physical Ailments
There are some physical symptoms associated with Internet addiction. These symptoms include headaches, migraines, backaches, carpal tunnel syndrome and dry eyes. Lack of sleep due to late night smartphone binges online can also prevent the body from healing and weaken the immune system.
How can parents deal with their child’s Internet addiction?
1. Talk to Them
Most of the time, a child does not even know that they are addicted to the Internet. Parents must make sure that they help them understand what Internet addiction is. Once they understand and accept that they might have an addiction, you can discuss the steps that you will take together to prevent this from getting out of control. Always remember to be patient with your child and you will gradually recover together from an Internet addiction.
2. Limit Time Spent on the Internet
First and foremost, you should come up with a weekly time limit that is realistic. For example, if your child spends around 25 hours online, reduce that to 12 hours. Gradually reduce the time as you see fit after several weeks. Eventually, you will find your child spending 5 hours or less on the Internet. However, this will require a lot of patience. Setting goals on the amount of time spent on the Internet can show positive results and give the children some sort of benchmark to achieve. As a parent, you can also show some level of support to your child by setting time limits for yourself and sticking to those.
3. Introduce Physical Activities for your Child
Instead of giving your children reign of a screen the whole day, you should encourage them to do other activities. A few things you can do is take them to the park, the library, social events, play dates or anywhere that there might be activities for them to get out of the house. You can also play indoor games such as cards or board games.
4. Reward Them
If your child sticks to the time you have set for them to do their online activities, make a point of rewarding them. A little incentive will act as motivation and will encourage them to improve and might even solve their online addiction problem. Find something important to them that they can look forward to once they have met certain goals for a certain amount of time.
5. What if I don’t?
Assuming that you have already set the rules on Internet usage for your child, then there should also be some expectation of what will occur if children fail to reach certain goals on an agreed time. There is always the possibility that parents could take away their device or Internet access for some time or even take those away completely.
Smartphones, tablets and Internet access do not come without some sort of responsibility associated with them. In order to make time for things that matter most in life such as hygiene, nutrition and exercise, smartphones and Internet access in general need to take a back seat. There was a time not so long ago that no one had these things and life was completely manageable. Children need to learn responsible habits as they are young so that when they grow older they will not be hindered by a new and dangerous addiction to smartphones.