Is your child addicted to electronics?

15 May 2014

Technology embraces every aspect of our lives and as parents we’re seeing an increasing addiction by our kids to electronics. Experts caution we shouldn’t be too quick to identify this as a problem and should be careful of how we approach our children when confronting their technology usage.

Technology embraces every aspect of our lives and as parents we’re seeing an increasing addiction by our kids to electronics. Experts caution we shouldn’t be too quick to identify this as a problem and should be careful of how we approach our children when confronting their technology usage.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to hear your son or daughter has a burgeoning addiction to electronics. Whether it’s a television game, computer game, a tablet device, a game on your smartphone, social media or simply a handheld gadget – they’re using it, often.  Helene Vermaak, consulting psychologist at The Human Edge, says parents around the country wish their children would choose other activities.

Vermaak says before you decide electronic games are a problem in your house, you should do your best to determine whether games are a way for your child to medicate against some other problem – such as bullying, depression, anxiety, loneliness or other social or emotional problems. “In many cases these games can be an escape from everyday life. It’s important to identify if there are any problems at the root of the reliance.”

“When addressing the ‘addiction’ with your children don't begin the conversation using conclusions and wisdom (for example "I think you've got a problem" or "Reading is better for your brain").  Instead, come in with curiosity and a desire to connect,” says Vermaak.

Trust is permission to influence – and your child controls the granting or withholding of trust. Show an interest in their interests. Spend time with your child. Affirm them. And when sufficient safety exists, broach the topic. Your only hope of helping your children make different choices is to honour their feelings and autonomy – interview, don't lecture.

In order to sustain bad habits we must maintain ignorance of their consequences. “If you want to help your child ‘choose’ differently, you'll have to help him or her experience the downside of the habit as viscerally as he or she now experiences the upside.”

What they know today is that grabbing a controller and logging into a game is associated with feelings of engagement, enjoyment, social connection (if they play online games), mastery, and perhaps safe solitude. If they’re to choose something different, they’ll need to feel that other choices will create better consequences. This is tricky. But it's also a fundamental problem you need to solve. The first step is to help them engage in experiences that will awaken them to either the negative consequences of current choices, or the positive consequences of other choices.

Vermaak suggests an abstinence test as a first step. “Share the definition of addiction with your child and invite them to experiment in discovering their own way to discern healthy gaming and unhealthy gaming by attempting a brief abstention experiment and recording his feelings during it.”

“Invite him to think of activities that might create more enjoyment that could be far more fun for him than gaming. Encourage and support them in experimenting with a single attempt at an activity.”

Vermaak says before you address electronic addiction with your children, you might also want to take a closer look at your own reliance on technology. “Many of us have an unhealthy relationship with technology that can lead to negative emotional and relationship consequences,” says Vermaak.

This information is courtesy of The Human Edge. For more go to humanedge.co.za or call 012-345-6281.

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