When introducing handheld tech devices to children, parents and caregivers must be prepared to provide clear boundaries with regards to the use of technology.
“As games and apps - even educational ones - are designed to keep users’ interest, tech addiction is possible in young children, especially those with autism spectrum disorder who have a limited range of interests and a tendency to develop a preoccupation,” says Dr Soong Chi Mei, Senior Psychologist and Assistant Head of Clinical Services at the Department of Child Development, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group.
These signs could signal a tech addiction
Parents should look out for the following signs:
- Increasing and persistent use of the device, leading to social withdrawal
- Frequent requests to use the device, resulting in temper tantrums when the request is denied or the device is taken away
- Disengagement from activities, such as insisting to go home to use the device and refusing to perform other usual daily routines (such as going to bed) to continue playing with the device
- Excess preoccupation with certain characters found in games or videos, or spending excessive amounts of time and resources on them.
How to prevent tech addiction in children?
Parents and caregivers need to be prepared to be unpopular and provide clear boundaries for their children. Some measures that can be taken include the following:
- Limit the use of TV, computers and mobile devices to a maximum of 30 minutes at a time. Ensure the total amount of screen time per day doesn’t exceed the age-group recommendations.
- Schedule an appropriate time for using the device, and plan fun physical activities for your child to engage in at other times.
- Refrain from putting TV and electronic gadgets in your child’s bedroom, and put away such devices after use.
- Observe ‘tech-free’ times such as during meals, homework and bedtime. In addition, you can designate ‘tech-free’ zones for your child such as in the bedroom, dining area and in the car.
- Teach your child early about the importance of moderation. Be sure to offer praise when your child demonstrates restraint in the use of tech devices and follows the rules you’ve set.
- Monitor access by using the device together with your child. Take this opportunity to communicate, interact and share family values.
“At times, with the hectic lives we lead, technology may be used to help occupy a child’s time. However, it remains important for parents and caregivers to be available to talk, listen, play, visit places and engage with their children,” says Dr Soong.