TV and electronics now play many roles in a child’s life, teaching, entertaining and connecting her to others. But such technologies can often impede upon the time a family spends together, whether this is due to an obsession with the technology or the indirect effects technology has on a child’s habits. Parents who worry about losing a chunk of family time to TV and electronics can restrict the amount of time their children spend on technology.
A Problem-Avoidance Tool
Many parents, especially parents of teens, have witnessed their children turning on the TV or pulling out their cellphones when a problem is brought up. According to director of the Center for Online Addiction and author of the book “Caught in the Net” Kimberly Young, children are almost habitually running to technology as a way of avoiding problems, especially family problems, as technology in the household is much more easily accessible than in schools or on the playground. As Young states, in the modern era, technologies like TV have begun taking the role of coping devices for children, who can lack the emotional management skills to address problems head on. A family activity that seems to be going well might degenerate into a text-a-thon if a problem is brought up, cutting into the time a family can productively spend together.
Effect on Morning Activities
Most parents have drastically different sleep schedules than those of their teens. TV and electronics have a role in this. According to Psychologist Kristin Dehmler, today’s children habitually use electronic devices prior to and sometimes past bedtime, drastically affecting the amount of sleep they get at night. Children who use electronic devices before bed not only have a harder time falling asleep but are also more likely to wake up during the middle of the night. It’s no wonder many families have problems getting all their children up to go hiking, fishing or camping on Saturday morning: many technophile children aren’t getting adequate rest.
While extreme, child addiction to TV and other technologies does exist. Most enjoyable activities, even rather unhealthy ones such as sitting in front of the TV for hours, trigger a release of dopamine in the brain. Your brain remembers this and craves more. As it links the action with the dopamine release, you might feel the need to watch TV at certain times. According to founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction David Greenfield, who wrote a section of the book “Internet Addiction: A Handbook and Guide to Evaluation and Treatment,” this phenomenon is no different from that of alcohol, nicotine or drug addiction. Children are particularly susceptible to technology addiction because they have underdeveloped brains, with particular weak points in the areas that control self-regulation. Needless to say, an addiction to a time-consuming activity can damage the family relationship, both in time spent together and in overall happiness.
What You Can Do
Before melting down about your child being addicted to technology, know that only approximately 5 percent of children are truly addicted to some form of technology, according to Young. If you are worried that your child is spending too much time on TV or technology-related activities, the easiest and most effective step is to simply restrict his use of these gadgets. Establish times that are acceptable for TV watching, such as after homework is completed or during a two-hour period at night. This way, you can leave an adequate amount of time for family activities.