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Alecia Carroll is a Parenting Expert and content writer. She loves to write articles based on brief research on parenting and child safety.
Living in the 21st century, we are shaped by unpredictable intermittent changes thanks to the digitization of pretty much everything around us. Things happen, and they happen fast. Nowhere is that more true than with the smartphone.
Smartphones are very powerful devices that can be used for countless creative purposes. By utilizing all the opportunities that smartphones open up to us, smartphones have revolutionized our lives.
According to a Common Sense Media survey, just over half of children in the United States (53%) own a smartphone by the age of 11.
There is no doubt about the advantages of smartphones— ease of communication with friends and family. However, every technological advance comes with a price tag. We have become so reliant on our smartphones that they are indispensable, and our children are facing the same fate. They constantly check their messages and become irritable if they have to be away from their phones, even for a while.
As smartphones have become crucial not only for communication but also for controlling children’s lives, parents have a right to be concerned.
Why do kids spend so much time on their smartphones?
Many parents find it hard to keep their children away from smartphones and other devices. Why?
If we look around us, we can see that smartphones are quickly replacing old toys among children. Every time a child gets fussy, they are handed a video or a game to play.
Also, not only are smartphones easy to use, but kids model their behavior after their parents— who are also constantly on their smartphones.
Unfortunately, these quick fixes and unhealthy habits come at a steep price.
What are the Physical and Mental Risks of Kids Using a Smartphone?
Today’s children are raised in a technologically advanced environment. And these smartphones can have adverse effects on children. Some include:
Backlit smartphones emit short-wavelength blue light. LEDs emit blue light, which has been proved to reduce the natural synthesis of melatonin and therefore lessen feelings of sleepiness at night.
Children are especially prone to falling asleep near electronic devices emitting blue light. Consequently, kiddos who are accustomed to using smartphones at night often do not get enough sleep and feel tired the next day.
The prevalence of obesity in children is increasing.
Spending too much time on social media or games reduces interest in hanging out with friends or playing outside.
Also, food marketing can also influence dietary choices that lead to weight gain in children. These advertisements target teens via social media and a variety of videos or music in real-time. Sometimes advertising can be misleading and send signals about the healthiness of food.
Most children with a smartphone addiction suffer from back and neck pain, and constant use of devices is the biggest contributor to this problem. Bad posture while sitting, studying, or using a smartphone for a long time without changing position causes discomfort in the neck and back from an early age.
Children may engage in inappropriate behavior when using smartphones. Sending inappropriate text messages and photos is an increasingly serious problem among kids. Photos may fall into the wrong hands and give others access to private photos.
If we see from design to how operating systems work, the smartphone is the most exciting invention in the tech world.
About 50% of children are so attached to their smartphones that they panic during the day without them.
The constant need for stimulation can damage brain development and actually rewire our children’s brains. Symptoms include the inability to focus, distractibility, irritability, and headaches.
The childhood years are the important period for the development of social skills. They learn how to build up friendships, resolve differences, and what to do and what not to do in social etiquette through interaction with their peers.
But if they are not communicating face-to-face with their peers, children are less able to develop these important skills.
Sociologists have labeled the way children learn to communicate on the phone as impersonal communication primarily because the child does not need to communicate in front of anyone.
Body language and other social cues are lost when communicating through text messaging and social media. Children share everything with each other and behave in ways that a normal person would never think in the presence of others.
Depression is a growing problem among adults and children alike. Experts have found that children who spend significant time in front of a screen are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than children who spend time regularly outside or find creative outlets such as coloring and reading.
How Can Parents Reduce Smartphone Addiction?
If you think your child may be spending too much time on their device or that they have a smartphone addiction, here are some ways to help.
1. Talk to Your Child
When a child asks for smartphones, a parent who sternly says NO cannot expect to be met with, “Okay, Mom.”
When you find yourself in that position, say no without raising your voice and then explain why the answer is no.
If the answer is yes, but you want to redirect their activities, have a conversation about what you like and don’t like about the shows they are watching. When the show is finished, ask them to describe the characters or tell you the story to build excitement and literacy skills outside of the screen.
You can also talk about appropriate times to use the smartphone. Maybe after school is fine, but the device is off-limits during meals, school hours, and before going to bed.
2. Use Parental Controls
Parental control apps allow you to control every aspect of your child’s online experience, from the amount of time they can spend online to the apps and websites they can use. This also helps to restrict communication with certain contacts on social networks, restrict messages containing personal information, or even block messages with certain words.
3. Keep Your Child Engaged
Find other ways to keep your child busy and happy. For example, you can take your child to a park or nearby playground for a run and play. If that’s not an option, join your children at a nearby sports club or take them on regular walks to discover nature.
You can also go for a picnic in the park, which will create a wonderful family bond. Not only will the children get refreshments, but parents will also be able to relax and spend the day with their family.
4. Set Passwords
You cannot constantly be near your child to prevent them from using smartphones. In those moments, technology can help.
Set a password on your phone so kids can’t use it while you’re away.
5. Be a Role Model
Usually, parents spend a lot of time with their smartphones, and in these cases, advising children not to use mobile phones may not help because they will certainly follow in your footsteps.
Therefore, set a good example for your children by limiting the use of smartphones.
6. Bond With Your Children
Most parents have busy lives, but it’s important to take time to socialize with your children. Playing board games or activities such as cooking together will make your child feel valuable and rewarding. After all, if their emotional tank is full, they won’t grab their smartphone to cope with loneliness. You can also encourage your child to engage in hobbies such as doing simple science experiments, listening to music, or painting.
A Not-So-Fast-Paced Life
It is certainly true that technology has been a blessing to mankind. However, it is equally true that the rise of technology has brought about some unfortunate consequences.
If you are noticing signs of smartphone addiction in your child, follow these tips to reinforce responsible behavior with technology.
And don’t forget to make the change for yourself too!
You might also be interested in: 11 Things You Should Never Do In Front Of Your Kids
How To Reduce A Smartphone Addiction:
- Talk to Your Child
- Use Parental Controls
- Keep Your Child Engaged
- Set Passwords
- Be a Role Model
- Bond With Your Children