Is your child turning fidgety and restless of late? Does he regain his good cheer when he spots his favorite gadget? Do you find his concentration suffering and his grades falling consistently? If you have answered “Yes” to even one of these questions, the chances are that your teenager has become yet another victim of gadget addiction. This article will tell you more about gadget addiction and its impact on your teenager’s life.
In recent times, the role of gadgets has assumed mammoth proportions in a teenager’s life. While i-Pads 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.
How Does Gadget Addiction Develop
As research made technology more simplified and sophisticated, devices became smaller and smaller, to the point that now we can put a computer in our pocket! This is perhaps one of the biggest factors that contribute to gadget addiction: the fact that gadgets are becoming more accessible day by day. Not to mention, they are also becoming more affordable! There was a time when cell phones cost tens of thousands of rupees, and making a 15-minute phone call could burn a hole in your pocket. But now, everything is so much cheaper!
Apart from easy access and affordability, another factor that makes gadgets addictive is the fact that they are designed to be so. Most gadgets have attractive and colourful displays. They are highly interactive, which means they constantly compel you to take some action, never giving you a chance to turn away from it. Even the applications that most gadgets come loaded with are in-turn also designed in a similar fashion - to be easy (to use), attractive, and interactive.
Finally, most applications on the gadgets we use, give us a hit of dopamine upon interacting and spending time using them. When we get notifications of social media sites on the phone - feels good, doesn't it? When you cross that level in the game and get rewarded with boosters, when you unlock a special time-bound challenge, not only do you 'feel good', you also feel incentivised to spend more time on the gadget.
It's like smoking - you don't always want to smoke, but you see that packet of cigarettes lying so well within your reach, and you think to yourself - 'Why not?'
Signs of Gadget Addiction
Technology 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 favourite ones like going to 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, colourless 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 cardiovascular 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 behaviour 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 the 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.
WATCH: How Is Your Phone Changing Your Body
Key Takeaway: Evolution of any animal is a normal process. What is not normal is the way the human body is evolving as a result of excessive gadget use.
Every time we bend to look at our phones, our spine is bent at an angle equivalent to carrying a small child on on our neck, and it has been found that we spend close to 5 hours on a phone everyday on an average.
More than 80% of the Asian population has myopia, or shortsightedness.
Nomophobia - the fear of being without your phone - is now a legit condition that causes a lot of stress to young people.
More and more people are facing problems with sleep as a result of prolonged exposure to the blue-light emitted by different screen we look at all day (including phone and computer screens).
Digital Detoxification- Streamlining Gadget Time
Recently a survey conducted in the USA showed that almost half the parents (who participated in the survey) think their children are addicted to their phone. Half of the parents also say they are concerned about how this addiction is affecting their child's mental health, while almost 90 percent of parents think it is their responsibility to curb this addiction in their children.
We are sure you think that's easier said than done. However, it is not impossible.
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 centres 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.
Your Gadget Use Is Affecting Your Child Too
So - we have established that gadgets are bad for children and looked at a few ways to curb gadget addiction in teens. However, arguably the most important factor that affects gadget addiction in teens is - you.
Did you know that your tech and gadget use too leaves a deep impact on children? From feeling unimportant and neglected to wanting to destroy the gadget, children react very strongly to excessive gadget use in parents. And this is not speculation, it has been proven through various surveys and studies.
While working on her book ‘The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age’, author Catherine Steiner-Adair found that children associate negative feelings with their parents' cell phones. They feel it is something that comes in the way of them spending time and getting love and attention from their parents.
This is not difficult to comprehend, given that the most common reaction of parents when they are on their phone and the child calls out to them is "Not now, I am busy!"
While gadgets are a great way to connect with a larger and wider audience, "it takes them away from the present moment and, thereby, their ability or resources to respond to the child’s needs in the most appropriate manner is elsewhere," according to Asst. Prof. Dr Nithya Poornima, NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences) Bengaluru.
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.