Tech addiction is real and it is becoming prominent. Like any other addiction, it begins with a preoccupation and turns into an obsession, routinely interfering with a child’s daily activities such as eating, sleeping, school, and interests. Kids are most vulnerable during the adolescent and teen years when the anxiety of fitting in, succeeding, and figuring out who they are in relationship to the world is overwhelming and terrifying. What was once entertainment becomes an escape from the anxiety and struggle of adolescent life. However, there are 5 full proof ways to prevent your child from developing a tech addiction.
The first is outside time. Make nature-based activities routine in your child’s life. Being in nature has enormous anxiety-reducing benefits. The correlation between a 40% decrease in outside time in the past 4 decades and a substantial increase in anxiety in kids is no coincidence. If kids routinely spend time outside at an early age, it will become part of their lifestyle. Take walks, go hiking, skiing, snowboarding, biking, skateboarding, rock climbing. Get your child outside every day and model for them a desire to be outside.
Secondly, allow them to play. Currently, the time children spend involved in free, unstructured play is scant compared to previous generations. Again, this partially explains why the childhood rates of anxiety, suicide, and depression are on the rise. Unstructured play helps kids work out deep inner conflict while also helping them reduce anxiety and depression. Caught in an achievement-focused culture, it’s easy to understand why parents want their kids focused on achievement, but this may be zapping the child’s ability to mitigate their own anxiety and remain happy and healthy. This also explains the slime craze. Kids are starved to play and engage their senses—without a screen.
The ancient Asian philosophy of the mind and body connection is the third way to protect your child from getting sucked into their screen. When a child’s mind and body work together towards a common goal, the child feels whole, centered, grounded, and soothed—not anxious. Traditional mind and body activities include tai chi, yoga, martial arts, and meditation. Deep breathing and an attunement to the body is a need for every human being. Of course, many other activities like sports and dancing also facilitate a mind and body connection. Ensure your child takes pride in their effort, and not in their achievement. When life is fun, there is no need to dive into an alternate reality.
The final way to prevent your child from developing a tech addiction is, actually, your relationship with them. The most important protective factor for children against depression and anxiety is a close relationship with a parent. Be a parent your child can talk to. Stay present. Empathize. Try to remember a time when you felt the way they do in their situation. Avoid trying to solve their problem or protect them from difficult feelings. Instead, help them work through the difficult feelings. They will come out stronger and more resilient. When a child has a strong sense of self, they are protected. They won’t need a screen to hide behind. So, don’t limit screen time, balance it with nature, play, peace, and love.