How to Break Screen Addiction: 5 Visible Signs That Your Child is Addicted
This past year children have been spending even more time on their screens for education which has made it harder for parents to spot screen addiction. Despite pandemic restrictions being lifted in the UK, this past week saw over 700,000 students isolating at home and forced to continue remote learning. This has led to a 100% increase in time spent on apps by children (spurred in the main by YouTube and TikTok). With these increases both for educational and entertainment purposes, more and more children are showing signs of being addicted to screens, and it is getting harder and harder for parents to delineate addiction from overuse. So, we have put together some visible signs to pick up on to indicate that your child is addicted and needs help.
Loss of interest in other activities
The first and most obvious sign of screen addiction is a loss of interest in other activities. During the pandemic this may have been harder to spot as all ‘other activities’ ground to a halt. However, these need not be hobbies such Girl Guides which were made impossible over the last year. This could instead include: family movie night, going for walks, or playing with the family pet. If your child does show a lack of interest in other activities it may be time to remove their device and allow them the space to reconnect with the world.
Interferes with socialising
A related symptoms could be if your child consistently chooses technology over interaction with others. This could be family, friends, schoolmates or anyone they interact with. You will know your children best and thus be able to judge if their focus on the screen is due to shyness or a prioritisation of that device. Once again, our tip to help with this is to remove the device during sociable times, such as at meal times and when friends come over, so there is no distraction.
Once again, a symptom related to those above is that of withdrawal from those around them. Does your child sit alone with their device instead of interacting with those around them? Do they prefer to be alone in their room? Are they quieter than usual, or have they stopped getting involved with other people? These could all mean your child is withdrawing, which can be a symtpom of screen addiction but also deeper mental health conditions such as depression. So, we recommend seeking medical help if you feel it is serious and in the meantime supporting your child to reintegrate with the people around them.
Similarly to other addictions, one symptom is that of deception. For example, perhaps they tell you they only use their device for school but you find it is used for social media. Perhaps they set up ways to get around the parental controls, or, perhaps they have found your hiding spot and take the device when they shouldn’t have it. All are symptoms of addiction and need to be responded to with the removal of the device. After a period of detox it can then be reintroduced, perhaps supervised, and trust can be rebuilt.
Only talk about screens
This final symptom is perhaps the most obvious: all they talk about is screens. This could be games, social media, or any other addictive app on their device. If your child cannot have a conversation without bringing the topic back to their screen use then it is time for some space!
We hope you will not recognise any of these symptoms as behaviour your child exhibits. However, if that is not the case, we have plenty of resources throughout our website to help you support your child through this.
For more suggestions on managing your child’s relationship with tech to benefit their mental health, take a look at our new book ‘My Brain Has Too Many Tabs Open‘.