In recent times, the role of gadgets has assumed mammoth proportions in a teenager’s life. While ipads and tablets excite him, making him feel like a superhero and raising his adrenaline levels, they also make him clingy, dictate his moods and limit the scope of his enjoyment outside these gadgets.
What is more dangerous is that parents seldom realize until the very end, that their teenager is becoming addicted and is exhibiting signs like that of an alcoholic or a drug addict.
Signs of Gadget Addiction
Gadget addiction, like any other addiction, severely debilitates a child’s capacity for achieving his dreams, and in the whole process transforms him into a lazy, uninterested individual, who sees his gadgets as the sole reasons for his existence and happiness. Be alert to these signs in your child:
- If he exhibits complete lack of interest in other activities- even his favorite ones like going for a movie or a game of football.
- If he becomes argumentative whenever the topic of excess gadget time is broached. He might also become exceedingly offensive or defensive in his arguments and fail to view the whole issue in an objective light.
- If he becomes excessively despondent when he is unable to access his online account and becomes cheerful once he is able to.
- If he starts lying to you about his gadget time.
Side-effects of Gadget Addiction
While technology continues to connect countries and communities on one hand, it is also responsible for isolating teenagers and pushing them into lonely, colorless lives. Here is how gadget addiction transforms your teen:
Too much gadget time means leading sedentary lives. The children remain glued to their couches, munching on junk food to satiate their hunger and cravings. In the long run, this translates into lack of physical exercise and obesity. Obese children have more chances of growing into obese adults with increased risk of cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes and conditions like arthritis.
Studies have shown that teenagers who spend most of their waking hours playing violent, aggressive games with their gadgets are more likely to exhibit violent behavior with their peers. They are also likely to be rude and impolite to their teachers, and exceedingly indifferent about behaving in a civil, polite manner.
Parents who have gadget-addicted teens in their house, commonly come across these situations:
- Siblings bullying each other
- Children shoulder surfing the parents’ passwords and then using them surreptitiously
- Accessing inappropriate content on web and once that website has been blacklisted, using the above methods to gain access again
- Misusing the computer time by lying that it is about school projects and playing games on the sly
- The child throwing tantrum when he is asked to get off the computer or asked to leave the gadget
- Screen time or Gadget time becoming a cause for sibling rivalry.
Disturbing Sleep Patterns:
Gadgets disturb the normal sleep patterns of your child. Constant texting would keep him awake during the night and he would end up feeling tired and exhausted throughout the day. This would again lead to poor concentration, declining grades and poor academic performance in school.
Effects on Community/Society:
As teenagers become more and more addicted to gadgets, they also want to possess the latest and “coolest” ones, preferring to turn a blind eye to the price. This leads to over commercialization and materialism in the society, where teenagers stop appreciating the finer aspects of living such as sharing, philanthropy etc. In their enthusiasm to possess the best and sophisticated gadget of the lot, teenagers become increasingly lonely. They lose out on friendships and end up feeling disconnected from family and friends.
Digital Detoxification- Streamlining Gadget Time
Gadget addiction eats into the quality time of your teenager. However, arguing with him is going to be of little benefit and will yield little or no results. A more holistic approach towards this addiction would help him re-structure his screen time activities in positive, constructive ways. Follow these points to start with:
- Do not get into an argument with your teen. Set boundaries and explain the consequences in clear terms. For instance, if your teen asks for an hour more today, tell him in no uncertain terms that his gadget time for tomorrow would be curtailed by one hour and remember to stick to your words the next day.
- Create a system of accruing rewards, if they stick to their gadget time. Set timetables and give them good reasons to comply with.
- Start spending positive time with your child. If you sense he is lonely or bored, suggest an outing to the park nearby or a visit to the beach. Once outside, switch off your mobile and focus entirely on your child.
If all your efforts towards de-addicting your teen from his gadgets fail, you can turn to de-addiction centers which follow a more structured approach to deal with your teen’s problems. This de-addiction program is focused on three elements of interpersonal therapy, i.e. tech hygiene, emphasis on life skills and well being of the teenager.
Finally, when you are trying to wean your child away from all the gadgets, introspect silently upon your behaviors and do away with negative ones which might have unknowingly driven your child to seek succor in his ipad and gaming console. Show your child the world that exists outside the glimmering screens of these expensive gadgets. Demonstrate to him the simple pleasures of chasing a ball on wet sands and help him glean a little more joy out of life.