A 4-year-old British girl became so addicted to her iPad that she required digital detox therapy. Her doctor says she’s not the only toddler in need of rehab.
A Little Context…
You’d be right in thinking this is a pretty new problem. The Apple iPad is bearing the brunt of digital addiction concerns and that particular piece of technology is only 3 years-old, so there really isn’t a lot of hard data on the pervasiveness of the issue.
However, Dr. Richard Graham (a technology addiction expert) feels pretty confident that young children and toddlers face the same risks as adults in becoming addicted to smart phones, tablets and computers – a problem that has risen 30% in the last three years. With children, he believes it can lead to serious long term issues.
Dr. Graham says that problems arise when kids get more than 4 hours of screen time a day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that American children spend an average of 6 hours, 32 minutes in front of various screens. The AAP doesn’t warn against addiction but they do note that kids who sit in front of a screen for too long are at greater risk of becoming obese, developing behavioural problems, sleep issues, poor academic performance, and may be more prone to violence.
The proof is in the withdrawal, which Graham likens to that experienced by alcoholics and heroin addicts. If you want to see tech-addicted babies for yourself – check out all of the videos on YouTube uploaded by parents who don’t seem too concerned. In fact, they seem quite amused and in some cases, proud.
Now, it’s worth noting that Graham works at a rehab centre (The Capio Nightingale Hospital in London, England) for digital addiction where they charge the equivalent of $25,000 for a 28-day program. That’s like 50 iPads!
If you want to avoid the need for technology rehab before your kids reach kindergarten, here are some strategies for a pint-sized digital detox:
Go Play Outside Yep, that old chestnut. But, seriously, we did it as kids and it kept us active, inspired creativity and helped us develop social skills (assuming the other parents on the block were shoving their kids out the door at the same time).
Designated Tech Time You don’t want your kid to be a Luddite, so you can’t completely banish all technology. Instead, designate certain times of the day as tech time – that way when time’s up, there are fewer tantrums.
Digital Parking Spot Kids are sneaky (not your kids, but other people’s kids). Keep an eye on all of those various portable technology devices by keeping them all in the same place – like a digital parking spot. That way, kids aren’t tempted to slip them in their pockets when they are being shoved outside for play time.
Walk the Walk Here’s the hard part. If you’re going to tell your kids that they have to limit their screen time, you should too. When it’s family time or play time, leave those devices parked. Use the extra time to talk with your kids, read with them, play with them and explore the great outdoors (sans GPS!)
And if that last idea puts you in a panic, causes you to shake or makes you want to throw a tantrum, there’s this place in London that might be able to help you.
How many hours does your child spend on the computer? Are you concerned about digital addiction? Or, do you think this is a trumped up condition created by money addicted therapists?