Addiction to technology is one of the greatest threats that our children will face as they mature. It’s not just children who are addicted to technology. Our modern world runs on constant access to the internet. The advent of the smartphone has changed the way we experience life. We need our phones for GPS, internet, social media, weather, music, and entertainment, on top of communication. What happens to you when you can’t find your phone for even five or ten minutes? A panic and sense of urgency descends upon many of us.
It’s hard for us as adults to fully imagine the impact of growing up with easy and instant access to this immensely powerful technology. Many of us had some video games growing up, but they were less sophisticated and harder to access. We did not grow up in the age of social media and the smartphone.
In a song called “Brother Moses” by my friend Chris Makonnen, he sings about the plight the children are facing, “Children are losing themselves in a virtual modern cloud. Digitalizing the cosmos.” He goes on to say that children must be free. So many of the behavioral problems I see in all the families I work with center on addiction to technology. This addiction is enslaving our children and often seriously limiting their potential, as well as hurting the whole family.
Children addicted to technology who are experiencing the withholding of said connectivity often function similarly to a person addicted to (a) substance(s). They will do anything or say anything to get their next fix. They throw enormous tantrums and, in some cases, even attack their parents to gain access to smartphones or games. It’s very important that we help our children be the best version of themselves possible. The addict is not a desirable identity for any person to be trapped in. The sooner we help break this bind, the easier it is for our children to wean themselves from technological addictions.
Instant access to technology can breed a strong tendency toward selfish and narcissistic behavior. The children are thinking only about themselves and not considering the impact their actions can have on others. Many children who have free access to technology will refuse to go to bed, staying up as late as possible while mindlessly scrolling for hours of screen time. The whole family’s health is compromised when one child is lost in this addiction.
We need strong boundaries to help our children. Technology is a part of our world. Children will have to learn to live with it. Limiting their time on technology is so critically important. If they are under five years old, their brain is still forming and developing. The natural world should be their first teacher. Playing in the real world is an important skill children are losing with so much virtual access. As they graduate into elementary school, some access to technology is good. I believe children shouldn’t have their own phones or devices until they are at least over nine years old, perhaps 12 or 13 years old. When they have access to technology, there must be limits regarding duration, what they can access, and at what times of the day they can access it.
Like many things, there are two sides to the use of technology by children. On the one hand, our children can face the threat of being exposed to adult content at too young of an age through pornography, extreme violence, and overly sexualized behaviors, for example. Social media is a very different world from the play yard. Some children can get themselves into trouble socially on social media by being bullied or ostracized from friends. They can attract the attention of adult sexual predators as well. On the other hand, the land of technology is a wild world and there are many useful aspects to technology that enhance all of our lives. For example, there are so many educational apps. Technology is not bad. It’s a good thing in moderation. However, if we are addicted to anything, we lose our power to it.
How much technology is too much? In general, this is an individualized question. Observing your child and noticing when and where they show signs of having had too much technology is a good place to start. They will often be easily irritated, more self absorbed, and less considerate of others. Many children can not fall asleep because they want to continue playing on their devices. It’s essential to have a curfew on technology and be sure your children have at least an hour free of screen time before they go to bed. The artificial blue light makes it harder for all of us to fall asleep.
The only way to have a family that truly works for everyone is to have our children free of addiction to technology. When a child has broken free of their addiction to technology, they can use technology as a tool. When taken over by it, they can soon break free again. The forces that absorb us in technology are everywhere in society. As healthy adults, we must develop our own sense of what connects us, what is healthy, what nurtures and sustains our life.
It takes a skillful parent to raise children who have self-discipline and capably exercise moderation. Some children are able to carry these values on their own and limit their time on screens. Other children will need our help until they are living on their own. If your child has an extreme addiction to technology, seeking the help of a behavioral expert can be essential in aiding them to break out of this addiction.
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Adam Bulbulia’s upcoming book, Parenting from the Heart: A Guide to Create a Family Culture that Works for Everyone will be available on Amazon, as are his earlier three books on the topics of nurture being, love, and authenticity. As you continue your exploration of heart-centered principles, we invite you to read other articles on our blog. We also offer parenting coaching, personal coaching, and business consulting.
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