09 May Why are children addicted to technology?
Did you know that the average person looks at their phone between 50 – 150 times a day? That’s an average of around 4-6 hours a day! When we take a look at these figures, it’s no wonder that there are so many children addicted to technology.
But why do we all spend so much time glued to our phones, tablets & laptops when it’s we know it to be poor for our health?
Understanding technology addiction
Devices and other digital platforms are designed in a way that keeps us wanting more, even NEEDING more.
Large corporations, therefore, leverage this design to boost profits off serving you advertising every time you reach for your phone. It’s beneficial to companies to continue to develop their platforms in a way that encourages unhealthy attachment.
By creating these attachments, companies exploit more chances to dish up their ads and therefore more chances of cashing in.
Unfortunately, it’s our children who really suffer from the notification gratification.
Why children addicted to technology?
Social media and other digital platforms are specifically designed to keep us engaged. And the more we engage, the more we want to engage, and therein starts the cycle of addiction.
Every time we receive a notification, our brain releases the chemical dopamine. This is the very same chemical that is released when we smoke, drink, take drugs and gamble.
So if it’s illegal for kids to participate in these activities, how can we allow them to run rampant online?
When we’re young, we haven’t developed coping mechanisms to deal with stress and anxiety. We’re also more susceptible to addiction than any other time in our lives. This is because the section of the brain that controls habit formation is linked to how reward is perceived. This essentially means that the reward factor plays a bigger part in making decisions than potential consequences.
A like, a comment or follow is a small reward. This means children are more likely to seek out more rewards, resulting in a change in their perception of reality.
Results of technology addiction
Similar to the way an alcoholic will turn to the bottle in times of stress, a person with technology addiction will turn to their devices to find comfort in difficult situations. This perpetuates their addiction and diminishes their ability to form deep and meaningful connections with their peers, especially when this behaviour is learned at a young age.
In a time where adolescents are constantly seeking approval from their peers, the inability to develop real and lasting relationships can have a massive impact on mental health.
While research is premature and a causal link is yet to be determined, it’s reasonable to suggest that social media may contribute to increased feelings of depression. When users are scrolling through their social media feeds and see their friends living, what seems to be, the perfect life with the perfect appearances and perfect friends, feelings of envy and isolation can often follow.
News stories and other tragedies conveyed online are also contributing to emotional extremes. By consistent exposure to disturbing stories, users can have psychological reactions that don’t actually resonate with their own life experiences.
What’s even more concerning is that these reactions often begin to simulate the emotions of someone who had physically experienced a traumatic event, opening users up to a range of unnecessary and damaging emotions.
Young people with a technology dependence may also find that they struggle with a future in the workforce. As is reasonable in contemporary society, most employers enforce strict phone and search policies when at work. If technology has become so ingrained in a person’s life that they are unable to separate themselves during work time, they may find themselves struggling to maintain employment.
Combatting technology addiction
Technology addiction isn’t something that sufferers can simply snap out of. Especially for kids and teens, it’s important to understand that retraining their behaviours can take time and may even require professional intervention.
In the early stages, we should focus our efforts around educating those with unhealthy usage patterns about the effect of their behaviours on their health and wellbeing. In addition, getting them to understand why apps and platforms are designed the way that they are, and how business use this to make a profit, is also vital.
It’s also critically important to impart some perspective on our kids. They know only what they see online, so being able to provide another perspective to fill in the remaining picture is crucial in being able to teach our kids to make better and more informed decisions.
In good news, both Apple & Google have started acknowledging the parts they play in tech addiction and have begun launching new features to help users monitor and minimise their usage. While each device offers slightly different functions, in general, you can now utilise the following features to aid the fight against tech addiction:
+ Do not disturb function that allows users to set time limits for blocking notifications
+ Grouped notifications to allow users to easily dismiss multiple messages
+ Access to weekly reports of how much time you spend on your device
+ Set time limits for how long you can use an app – allowing parents to manage usage
+ Wind down mode to block out blue light at bed time (which is known to inhibit sleep)
As with many behaviours, teens tend to emulate what they see from their closest family members and friends. Although as adults we may need to use our devices for work, organise our lives and use our downtime to connect with friends, it’s important that we set an example and set our phones down during family time. Here are a few ideas that might help your family.
- Invest in a container and set device-free time in your house each night i.e dinner time. Each person in the house must put their phone on silent and drop it into the container. This activity works best if you then place the container out of sight. If you can repeat this at bedtime, you’ll know your teen is getting rest rather than scrolling through Instagram.
- Sit with your teen while they scroll through their feed and converse with them about the content they’re exposed to. Try and reserve any judgment. Talk to them about the people and posts they see and how much of it isn’t realistic.
- Disable notifications. By taking away the banners, buzzes and badges, it removes that addictive response that compels them to check their phone. Your teen will still see updates when they open the app but disabling alerts will help them take a digital break.
Veteran Mentors helping children addicted to technology
Our 9-day leadership programs for teens are designed to instil lessons of respect, resilience, teamwork and courage. We’re also dedicated to helping kids step away from technology and out into the real world.
Through our 9-day digital detox, we can help your child break away from technology and experience joy in positive ways. We also help them develop the ability to see beyond immediate challenges to reach greater outcomes. Primarily, the struggle of putting down their mobile.
While our programs have assisted with a range of issues, most participants have demonstrated some level of technology addiction. Participants are therefore encouraged to build stronger relationships, become accountable for their actions and essentially reach their full potential away from the distractions associated with technology.
If this sounds like your child or someone you know and you’re interested in learning more about the Junior Leadership Program, follow this link to download our information pack.
How can we help children addicted to technology?
Veteran Mentors are a group of ex-servicemen and women who help Australian youth and their families to overcome personal challenges.
Utilising skills acquired through military involvement, our Mentors are equipped to provide critical lessons in respect, resilience, teamwork and courage.
We also help kids to understand the importance of developing self-esteem and meaningful relationships with friends and family.
Through conducting programs like the Junior Leader Program, our Veteran Mentors have assisted Aussie kids to conquer a range of challenges, encompassing everything from self-confidence issues to technology addiction and everything in between.
Cyberbullying and tech addiction often go hand-in-hand; learn more about how to stop cyberbullying.