Screen Time and Addiction: Are You Modelling Addictive Behaviour for Your Kids?

When we think about addiction, we typically associate the term with alcohol, drugs and gambling.

But what about the device you’re using to read this blog post? 

Technology, specifically in the form of portable tech like mobile phones, has become just as addictive and as difficult to overcome for a large part of the population. How addictive? Researchers claim that more than six per cent of the world’s population is addicted to some form of mobile technology. 

(Check out these stats from TechJury for even more jaw-dropping digital details.)

Dr. David Greenfield, founder and medical director of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, says in this video interview that “tech addiction is the use of screens to the point that one of the major spheres of our life become imbalanced or unmanageable.” He highlights a reduction of sleep, sedentary behaviour, the inability to experience social empathy and social confidence, and the inability to do well in school or your career as possible side effects of too much screen use. 

But how do you know if you are, in fact, addicted to that little computer in your pocket?

If you are concerned about your own personal screen use and its effects on your family, Psychology Today outlines a list of questions that can help you take stock of your digital habits:

  • Have you noticed an increase in how often you use your device?
  • Have you felt guilty about how often you use your device?
  • Do you experience an urge to use your device?
  • When you are using your device, do you experience a lift in your mood?
  • When you are using your device, do you experience a thrill?
  • When unable to use your device, do you experience discomfort?
  • Have you noticed times in which it seems as though time was lost while you were in the zone using your device?
  • Do you use your device to brighten your mood?
  • Have you tried to reduce the amount of time that you use your device? If so, were you successful in reducing your amount?
  • Have your loved ones complained about your use? If yes, have you continued your usage rate regardless of their complaints?

But it’s not just adults who are glued to their screens. Technology use among children is at an all-time high, and their addictive tendencies with tech often start with what they are seeing at home. 

Greenfield says that the best way to establish healthy tech use practices in your children is to create a family context on how technology and screens are going to be used inside and outside the home.

“The idea is to create a balanced use where screens are part of your life, not the majority of your life,” he says.

Greenfield says to establish open forms of communication and standards, regulate usage limits, filter content and apps, and set periods of time where you all have a digital detox. “Children essentially imitate what their parents are doing,” he says. “If you want your children to buy into the idea that limited screen use is healthy and desirable, you have to do it yourself.”

About the Author

Jamie Hunter lives in Dundas, Ont. with his wife, 10-year-old daughter and six-year-old son. Over the past 15+ years, he has contributed to a variety of national lifestyle and entertainment print publications and worked in corporate communications roles at Harbourfront Centre and the University of Toronto. A self-described amateur entomologist, wannabe ornithologist, and fair-weather angler, on weekends he can be found covered in dirt tending to his gardens.

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