9 Warning Signs of Tech Addiction Every Parent Should Know



Across the country parents are facing the same dilemma: children’s eyes affixed to screens hours at a time, devouring texts, streaming media, gaming or lost in their digital world. For many children technology opens new gateways of knowledge and entertainment but too much screen time can have a negative impact on your child’s psyche and even alter the way your child acts and thinks. Technology has been linked to a contributing factor with self-image and self-esteem causing issues with relationships, conduct, and other emotional symptoms.

Even having mobile devices within reach can be associated with inability to focus. A recent study found that people performed better on tests when their phone was in another room. People who had their phone within eyesight or in their pockets performed significantly worst.

Until recently, most technology addiction studies were focused on the number of hours of media teen and adults consumed. A study by the University of Michigan not only specifically researched the effects of screen media addiction on children age four through eleven but how children use the time spent on their device as a predictor of emotional or social problems connected with screen time addiction. So how can parents determine if their child has an addiction to screen media?  Below are nine warning signs of addiction that all parents should know.

9 Warning Signs of Screen Media Addiction:

  1. Unsuccessful Control: It is hard for my child to stop using screen media.
  2. Loss of Interest: Screen media is the only thing that seems to motivate my child.
  3. Preoccupation: Screen media are all my child seems to think about.
  4. Psychosocial Consequences: My child’s screen media use interferes with family activities.
  5. Serious Problems Due to Use: My child’s screen media use causes problems for the family.
  6. Withdrawal: My child becomes frustrated when he/she cannot use screen media.
  7. Tolerance: The amount of time my child wants to use screen media keeps increasing.
  8. Deception: My child sneaks using screen media.
  9. Escape/Relieve Mood: When my child has had a bad day, screen media seem to be the only thing that help him/her feel better.

Source: University of Michigan, Kids and Screen Time.

How to Help your Child with Their Technology Addiction

For most children, interacting with screens and technology is an integral part of their daily life. For most parents, it is unrealistic to ban or eliminate their child’s tech use but there are steps you can take to help you child strike a healthier balance.

Examine Your Own Technology Use

You will always be your child’s first teacher. Children learn by example, including the good, the bad, and everything in between. If you’re concerned about the amount of time your child spends on their devices, consider limiting your device use as well.  A great free tool for this type of conversation is a family media contract that allows you to create house rules for using technology.

Connect with Your Child without Technology

One of the best ways to combat the effects of overexposure to technology is by spending time with your child doing an unplugged activity. If you both have shared interests, take a “time out” from technology to make some memories. It is less about the activity and more about engaging with your child. A simple conversation about their favorite song, YouTube channel, book, or movie easily translates into real-life interaction.

Everyone Needs No Tech Boundaries

Let’s face it, no one likes to be told no but just like you can’t allow your child to eat ice cream all day long, limits need to be placed on screen time too. Setting limits and self-regulation can be difficult for anyone but especially difficult for children that may have challenges with impulse control. Support your child by establishing places and times in the day where mobile devices and interacting with screens are not allowed.

Talk Openly About Tech Addiction

One of the best ways to help your child understand the risks and issues of tech addiction is to have an age appropriate conversation.  Have an honest conversation about how hard it is for everyone to take a break from technology. If you’re struggling with how to limit your child’s access to technology, you can install a parental control app to set limits on your child’s screen time.

For parents today, tech addiction is not only real but will affect more families than drug or alcohol addiction. Technology is far from all bad, it can be a great tool to support your child’s creativity, curiosity, and expand learning environment. The key for parents is finding a healthy balance between benefits and dangers of technology.

Kristin McLaughlin – VP, Consumer Marketing, Zift

As a mother of three, Kristin has seen up close how technology and social media has influenced her children’s lives. She’s also worked with some of the country’s leading parenting brands over the years, including Your Baby Can Read and Brainetics. In communicating to and with parents, the one thing she has learned is that parents need an ally to navigate their children’s digital lives. Kristin leverages that experience for Zift’s content efforts, writing for the Zift Parent Portal, and you’ll also see her regularly on Zift social media sharing insights that can help parents help their children succeed.  

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