8 Ways to Help Your Teen Overcome Screen Obsession
Even though technology has improved our lives in profound ways, it has presented us with many unique challenges. While it’s true that technology has many upsides, it’s also frequently misused or overused.
With its prevalence and predominance in our society, it’s surprising how little research has been conducted on the ways technology affects developing brains and its impact on the family. Technology has completely captivated the youth of our society and video game playing has reached near epidemic proportions. One survey has reported that 97% of Americans from the ages of 12 to 17 play video games.
With no end in sight for adrenaline-pumping video games or the engrossing immediacy of social media, what will the impact of technology be on today’s youth? Will such rampant use of technology bring about unforeseen consequences in the future? Will technology eventually control our every thought and decision? Will it become our identity?
If your teenager has become dependent on technology, these thoughts have probably entered your mind at some point. But how can you know if your child is just exhibiting normal teenage behavior or if they’re headed for trouble? The only way to know for sure is to be aware of the warning signs.
Most people would agree that video game binges or all-night marathons aren’t beneficial to your health, either physically or mentally. But is there a time limit that should be observed by gamers? Is there a way to know for sure when video game playing becomes excessive…or even obsessive? There are many warning signs for people who have an overdependence on technology. Your child might be at risk if:
- He/she plays video games all night long, sleeps in during the day and generally lives a sedentary lifestyle.
- He/she has failed classes, quit going to school or lost a job over excessive gaming or internet use.
- He/she needs to play games for longer periods of time to get the same level of enjoyment.
- He/she withdraws socially or becomes irritable, anxious or aggressive when not playing games or engaging on social media.
- He/she has difficulty completing tasks that require concentration and attention, such as reading a book.
If you have a “screenager” who can’t put down the controller, smartphone or tablet, here are 8 practical tips to help your child overcome their digital dependence:
Take a Tech Timeout- More and more, parents are limiting their kids’ TV or tablet time. Establish a time when all devices will be turned off for the remainder of the evening. Not only will this provide a break from calling, texting, browsing the internet and posting content on social media, it will also afford your family the opportunity to spend more quality time together.
Make Them Earn It- In addition to establishing time limits for TV, video game or internet usage, make your teen earn their screen time. Examples of tasks that need to be completed before screen time is granted are: reading a book, spending time with family and friends and completing homework and chores.
Support Their Pleasure Centers- Deep inside the brain, your child’s pleasure centers respond to several neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine. When dopamine is depleted, depression and low motivation are much more likely to occur – it can be increasingly difficult to lift them out of a funk. Monitor your child’s high-excitement activities, limit video games and regulate their screen time. Boost your child’s dopamine naturally by engaging in meaningful conversation and fun activities outdoors.
Get Them Moving- When your children are playing outside, riding their bikes or scooters, or are involved in an organized sport like Little League or gymnastics, they’re engaging their bodies and minds. When your children are sitting on the couch watching TV or YouTube for hours on end, their brains aren’t being challenged. Physical activity stimulates mental activity and improves blood flow to the brain, so get your kids up and moving. It’s recommended that children exercise at least 30 minutes every day.
Create a Technology Free Bedroom- One of the best ways to avoid the dangers of digital dependence is to remove TVs, computers and other electronic devices from your child’s bedroom. Creating a relaxing environment, free from the distractions of the outside world, may facilitate better sleep and reduce the amount of harmful electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) their body absorbs.
Boost Their PFC- The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is responsible for helping your child be goal-oriented, socially responsible, and productive in every area of their life. Decreased activity in the PFC has been associated with lack of forethought and poor judgment. Exercising self-control is one of the best ways to strengthen their PFC. Supplements, green tea, relaxation techniques and enjoyable activities can increase blood flow to the PFC, which can assist your child in making better decisions.
One Screen at a Time- It’s common for people to use more than one form of technology at the same time. For example, a person may browse the internet or make online purchases on a desktop computer, laptop or iPad while talking, texting or tweeting on a smartphone all while watching TV. To prevent your child’s attention from being divided by multiple devices, follow the “one screen at a time” rule. This should aid your child’s ability to focus while also giving their overstimulated brain some much-needed downtime.
Internet Fasts- A great way to curb the adverse effects of digital obsession is to reserve one day of the week for an internet fast. Rather than letting your child sit around staring at a screen all day, encourage them to work on a hobby, engage in physical activity or enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors. You might be surprised at how many things your child can do, and how much fun they can have while taking a break from console games and the internet.
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