the condition of being unable to stop using or doing something
as a habit, especially something harmful. People can be addicted to
substances or activities: there are drug addicts as well as gambling addicts.
Some people are even addicted to exercise!
years, smartphone addiction in children has emerged as a serious concern. In
India, up to 44% of children in the age group of 11–14 years are addicted to
smartphones. They have difficulty concentrating and sleeping, become
emotionally stunted and narcissistic, develop anxiety disorders, and don’t bond
well with their parents.
Why do children get
addicted to smartphones?
No child is
born addicted to a smartphone. But once they are exposed to it, their young
brain takes an instant liking to it. It is natural: after all, the smartphone
is a limitless entertainment toy! The brain reacts to a smartphone as if it
were a drug. The notification tone, icons, and vibration can cause the brain to
release dopamine. If children or even adults, experience this dopamine shot
repeatedly, they become addicted.
What are the signs of
smartphone addiction in children?
the symptoms of smartphone addiction:
Repetitive, compulsive use of smartphone
Worrying about phone battery draining out
Refusing to eat food without a phone in hand
Crying or throwing a tantrum to gain access to phone
Avoiding games or chores to play with smartphone
Always wanting smartphone time as a reward
Being irritable, angry, or even violent if deprived of the phone
There are several potent measures that parents can take to prevent smartphone addiction in their kids.
1. Be the adult in the
that you, the parent, are the adult in the relationship. You are the one who is
equipped, authorised, and obligated to make health-related decisions for your
children. It is your job to ration their smartphone exposure to ensure their optimal
health. In doing this job, if you come across as cruel, so be it. You will not
become a good parent by giving in to all your children’s demands.
2. Ensure age-appropriate
Try to hold off screen exposure of your children for as long as practically possible. Children below the age of 6 should not be using smartphones at all. Beyond that, if you wish to give your kids a phone to stay in touch with them, give them a feature phone rather than a smartphone. That way, the chances of they becoming addicted to the dopamine-pushing notifications is significantly reduced.
3. Don’t use the phone as a bribe
the smartphone as a bargaining chip to make your kid listen to you or use it as
a distraction to feed your child. Raising children is not easy, but if you use
such shortcuts to get through the day, you will harm your child in the long run.
4. Have a smartphone
rulebook for children
Before you even
have a child, have a “child smartphone rulebook”. Lay down principles, rules,
and guidelines on when and how your child can use a smartphone. When your child
starts talking, discuss these guidelines with her and tell her what is expected
of her. Don’t deviate from the rules or make too many exceptions. That would
make your guidelines useless.
5. Track and control usage
parent, you must know which apps your child uses, for how long, and
communicates with whom. Tracking and monitoring are critical to protect your
child from getting cyberbullied or cyber-exploited. Install parental controls on
the phone so that your child does not use it beyond the agreed hours. There are
many apps on Google Play Store or Apple Store, like Moment and OurPact, that
help you set limits and permissions.
6. Emphasise your
ownership of the phone
must be told that you are the owner of the smartphone—you are allowing her to
use it as a privilege, not as a right. Children have no smartphone rights; they
only have the right to your love and care. Ensuring healthy phone use is
nothing but caring.
7. Set up the phone
clear to your children that you will be monitoring their phone activity and
communications. You must set their usernames and passwords, and they should not
be allowed to change them. Ideally, the phone’s operating system, SIM, and apps
should be registered to you. Your email ID and phone number should be the two-factor
recovery option until your children become adults.
8. Be a role model
addiction is a serious problem for adults as well. If you are yourself
struggling with it, you cannot help your children. They will take your
behaviour as a sign that excessive smartphone use is okay. So, before you lay
down the rules for your children, make sure you follow them yourself.