More and more parents are becoming aware of the potential negative effects of electronic media (e.g. social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) video games, YouTube, etc.). You may have noticed that more is being written and discussed regarding how it is actually the aim of electronic media platforms to capture the minds of people, especially children, and exploit them for profit. As one article states: “With each passing day, new and more influential persuasive technologies are being deployed to better take advantage of children’s and teens’ inherent limitations.”
Persuasive technology and children effects
This field of research is called “persuasive technology”, in which digital machines and apps- including smart phones, social media, and video games- are designed to change human thoughts and behaviors. This field is based on psychological research and seeks to create digital environments that users will feel fulfill their basic human drives (e.g. to be social, to attain goals and objectives) better and more easily than the real world alternatives. While persuasion techniques work well on adults, they are particularly effective at influencing the still-maturing child and teen brain. The end result is that many children and adolescents wind up feeling the “need” to spend countless hours in social media or playing video games in order to feel happy and successful. In doing so, many of the developmentally important activities of childhood are ignored, and some children feel empty and unfulfilled if they are not allowed to spend time with their electronics. Consequently, an addictive like reliance on the electronic medium develops. You can learn more about the subject at the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab website.
As with all possible addictions, some people are more susceptible to a particular addiction than are others. But just as parents in today’s world need to be on the lookout for signs in their children of addiction to drugs and alcohol, they should be vigilant for signs of addiction to electronics. There are some general things to be looking for which may suggest the presence of an addiction to anything such as noticeable changes in your child’s mood (e.g. mood swings, increased irritability) and/or behavior (e.g. altered sleep patterns, declining academic interest and performance, etc.).
Is my child addicted to technology?
Some specific things to be on the lookout for to suggest a possible problem with the use of electronics are things like: angry, defiant reactions to attempts to limit electronics use; use of electronics when the person would otherwise be sleeping; sneaking the electronic device into their bedroom after having been told to leave it out of the bedroom; missing family or social functions due to electronics use; a decline in interest in other activities; etc.
How do I help my child with technology addiction?
If, as a parent, you become concerned with your child’s use of electronics, there are things you can try to implement to help if you have not already done so. Here is a list of technology addiction habits you can try:
- Institute periods of “tech time out” where all the electronics in the house are to be turned off for certain specified periods during the day.
- Instate tech free days or even weekends to provide your child with breaks from electronics and a time where other activities may be encouraged.
- Make your child’s bedroom be technology free by removing televisions, computers, cell phones, etc. This way you can be sure that when your child is in their bedroom they are not engaging in the use of electronics.
If you have tried these and other things and you continue to be concerned with your child’s use of electronics it may be time to seek the advice of a professional experienced in this area. There is emerging research to suggest that excessive use of electronics can actually have adverse effects on a person’s brain. At Sadar Psychological and Sports Center we have ways to evaluate the person and their brain functioning to determine if and what interventions might be considered to address current problems or to avoid future problems.