Before sitting down to write this article, I have been closely observing for a long time, the behavioral and thinking patterns of not only children and adolescents who are deeply involved in their mobile phones, but also their parents. To be honest, I have come across very shocking facts. Most parents are not aware that their child's screen time is hindering their physical, mental and educational growth.
Whenever I tell any parent to restrict the excessive use of mobile phones by their children, I usually get 3 types of reactions.
Most of them look at me like I am an alien who is talking nonsense.
Some laugh and say, "Yes, we do need to. Then they turn to their child and ask him to give his mobile back and the child either runs away or starts crying.
The rest say, "Yes, we are worried, but our child is out of our control now and does not listen to us.”
While very few parents understand this concern, at the same time, they see it as a regular habit in today's time. This means that they see it as a future threat but not as a harmful addiction.
I do not know which category you fall into, but if you are feeling a bit anxious about your child’s habit of spending too much time on a screen, then you should read this article carefully.
Everything has two sides- a positive one and a negative one. The same applies to Internet usage. These days teenagers like to spend their time on the Internet because it gives them the freedom to connect with the rest of the world. It can be a good thing when used for positive activities, such as studying or interacting with family members.
It is alright if children watch their favorite cartoons occasionally and meanwhile, parents are enjoying their favorite serials on the television. Hence, the first thing you should understand is that in this digital age, you cannot ban your child from surfing the Internet completely or he will come up with it later.
You won't even realize when your child's habit of spending time on the mobile and surfing the Internet has turned into an addiction, and after you realize, it is too late. How mobile phones and the internet affect children of different ages and how you should limit them is a bigger task than you think. Let's understand this deeply.
KIDS of Ages 3-10
Most children of this age group use their mobile phones to watch cartoons or play online games. They do not use it to browse the things that are going on in their minds or to get some solutions like adults do. So the first problem we discover that arises because of too much screen time is the weakening of eyesight.
Another problem that we see is a change in their behavior. For example, if you stop them from playing their favorite online game on their mobile or ask them to give their mobile back to you, they become irritated and sometimes even furious. They see a mobile as their preferred choice of entertainment over playing games offline or even watching the television. Whenever they get a chance (like when their parents are sleeping), they hide in any corner of the house with a mobile.
How do you deal with this behavior?
Don't give the mobile to your kids easily. Make an excuse such as the mobile is not working or that they have tempered it.
If your child cries, either console him or give him some other toy to play with. He will forget the mobile soon enough.
Play with your kids to distract him from the mobile. Actually, since we don't play with our kids enough, they soon start following our habit of playing on the mobile.
If things have gone out of control, put some lock in the mobile so your kids can't use it for gaming or watching cartoons.
Parent's Excuses: I have seen that most of the time parents love to pamper their children simply by giving them mobile phones or sometimes to talk with their partner or to watch their favorite show on TV. At times, the mother gives her children a mobile phone so that they'll finish their homework. This becomes a regular habit for both the mother and the children.
If parents are using mobiles in front of their children, then they should stop doing it. Just check your messages and emails, reply to them and put the mobile back. Never set the example of using your mobile for a long time. “Always remember that your children are constantly watching and observing what their parents are doing on their mobile or laptop.”
KIDS of Ages 10-18
Children in this age group start using mobiles or laptops for their favorite content. Some of these children also have personal mobile phones and are no longer dependent on their parents to look for any particular information on the Internet. They can open WhatsApp and chat with their friends. They can find their favorite videos on YouTube. They can post cool photos of themselves on Instagram. The phase of dependency on parents is gone. If your child has reached this stage, then you should consider the following steps to solve this problem.
First of all, try to not give a separate mobile phone to your child unless it is very necessary. You can give them mobiles during long-distance travel.
If you buy a mobile phone for your child, try to keep a child-lock on it. There should be a clear message of not using the mobile to surf unnecessary stuff.
There should be a general discussion at home once a week about the increasing risk of Internet addiction or excessive use of mobile phones that is hindering the child's studies. It will make the child understand that not only he should use the Internet wisely, but also that his parents are very worried and strict about it.
There should be absolutely no demonstration of excessive mobile usage at home by parents.
Adults (above 18 years of age)
This is now the most complex age for children. They have become quite mature and at the same time are at a tender age. You cannot scold or mold them the way you want to. Children in this age group prefer to make their own decisions rather than listen to the advice of their parents.
It is also the age when children start using the Internet for their enjoyment and curiosity. But it is also a time for children to focus on their careers. So it becomes necessary for parents to deal with their children if they are using the Internet too much. Here are a few suggestions.
The time has come for an open discussion on the use of the Internet. Because if you don't start it today, your children will never understand that excessive use of the Internet is harmful. Just ask your child what all he or she searches on the Internet and why
You cannot keep an eye on your child all the time because he also goes out of the house, such as to college or to hang out with his friends. It is better to be his friend than to behave like a father or mother all the time. The child will listen to your concerns and act on this issue of Internet use.
Those parents whose child has already become addicted to the Internet and keeps checking his mobile all the time, they should interrupt him whenever he does it.
There is one more strategy that could work. Try to talk to your child whenever he tries to pick his mobile and try to engage him in a discussion that keeps him busy for a long period.
Try to show a social environment. When you return from the office, show your child how you keep your phone separately and talk with the whole family.
As I mentioned earlier, every child sees their parents on the phone. So always set high standards of minimum Internet usage in front of them. It will help them to get less fasinated about the smartphone.