Children's Unhealthy Dependence on Technology
Updated: Nov 5, 2019
In our practice we work with parents and families who are experiencing conflicts and anxiety due to the pull that devices have on children. Parents often struggle to establish boundaries for screentime usage and describe situations where the use of technology has replaced every other form of entertainment for their child and is often the priority activity. Parents find it extremely difficult in redirecting their children away from a device such as during dinner time, bed time, or when it is time to leave for school in the morning. Arguments follow and many times, children might have an emotional and/or behavioral meltdown. Children we work with self-report that unless they are engaged with some form of technology or device, they are "bored", and nothing else interests them as much as their favorite device. They negotiate ways to increase screentime use, and once they have possession of their device of choice, it becomes nearly impossible to pull them away. The American Psychiatric Association publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which identifies mental disorders and lists diagnostic criteria that mental health professionals use as guides for diagnosing their clients. While technology addiction is not yet an official disorder, Internet Gaming Disorder is one that has been identified as requiring further study. As such, the American Psychiatric Association has put together a list of symptoms that would be necessary for a diagnosis of this disorder. Some of these are:
Repetitive use of Internet-based games, often with other players, that leads to significant issues with functioning.
The person has lost interest in other life activities, such as hobbies.
A built-in tolerance, more time is needed playing the games
A preoccupation or obsession with games.
Research studying the effects of screentime usage on the developing brain and behavior is just beginning to emerge. However, there are already numerous studies that describe the negative impact screentime usage and technology is having on young people. If you are a parent struggling with your child's screen time use, there are ways to decrease your child's dependence and use of devices.