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What Every Mom Should Know About Technology Addiction

Technology addiction has unfortunately fell into the realm of casual obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)—it’s a very real addiction that many joke about and self-diagnose in jest. Addiction, by definition, is anything that prevents you from living your usual life. Just like addiction to drugs, gambling, alcohol and shopping, being addicted to technology can tear apart your relationships, health, and even be deadly.

What Every Mom Should Know About Technology Addiction

There have been some reported cases, particularly in southeast Asia, where people have died during gaming marathons. However, such cases have become more common. In 2017, a man died in Virginia Beach during hour 24 of a gaming session. The reasons vary and can include dehydration from failure to eat or drink anything during these mega sessions.

Of course, death is an extreme example of addiction to technology. It’s much more common for technology to negatively impact you on a daily basis. For example, poor sleep hygiene from falling asleep staring at a phone, the inability to maintain relationships because you can’t go to happy hour without checking your phone, and the lessening ability to communicate in person thanks to the “convenience” of email and text are all symptoms of technology addiction.

For parents, balancing technology use in children is a struggle. We live in a time where going tech-free, particularly for kids, isn’t an option. If you go that route, they won’t be able to keep up with their friends, submit homework (it’s often done online now), conduct research for school projects, or basically exist in contemporary society.

When technology is so addictive, how can you maintain technology usage without veering into addiction territory?

  1. Make some days, timeframes and rooms tech-free. There’s no reason for anyone, particularly a child, to have high tech in their rooms. Blue lights, the seemingly small lights from technology like smart phones, are well-known sleep disturbers. A child’s room should be kept cool, dark and tech-free. Establish some rooms solely for computer usage.
  2. Adopt a few total tech-free days. It might be once a month or once a week. Create a day that’s largely tech-free including televisions, phones and mobile devices. These days can be spent exploring outside as a family, taking a road trip to check out fall foliage or holiday displays, visiting a local U-pick berry stop, or discovering a new local playground.
  3. Create timeframes for tech usage. Your child’s teacher will be able to tell you how long homework assignments should take, particularly for those which require online research. Excepting homework research and tasks, create a set amount of time per day children can spend on computers/mobile devices and/or in front of the television. Most importantly, stick to them—and consider adopting them yourself. One hour of television or playing on a monitored mobile device is plenty of zone-out time for kids on a school day.
  4. Make use of parent filters. There’s no reason a child needs privacy on a computer, phone or mobile device. Install filters and parent apps, block the ability to clear search histories (which is often an option on such filters), and make sure you know your child’s passwords.
  5. Know the signs of addiction. Addiction, whether it’s alcohol or drugs, can often have the same red flags. If your child is angry or overly emotionally when you tell them tech time is over, if they demonstrate obsessive behaviors, or if they seem secretive about the usage, that might be a sign of addiction. Any addiction can benefit from professional intervention.

Some addictions can be addressed by going cold turkey, such as alcohol. However, addiction to eating, shopping and technology are especially tricky because we need to indulge in them in our daily lives. This requires conviction and the ability to self-monitor and balance—none of these items are particularly strong suits of teenagers or children.

Modeling good tech behavior is essential. If you’re constantly checking your phone or parked in front of the television, that’s what your child is picking up as acceptable tech behavior. Consider changing your own practices not just as a way to teach your children, but as a means of bettering your own tech tendencies.

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