Imagine this: Instead of giving your child a Smartphone, you give them a gram of cocaine or a bottle of wine. Sounds reprehensible, doesn’t it?
According to Harley Street (United Kingdom) rehab clinic specialist, Mandy Saligari, there’s no real difference. At an education conference in London, Saligari says that spending time messaging and posting on platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram can be just as dangerously addictive for teenagers as drugs and alcohol.
What is addiction?
Addiction shouldn’t solely focus on a substance or item; it’s a pattern of behaviour that can manifest itself in a number of different ways.
The scary status of screentime
The following facts and statistics are based on research in the UK, but they still apply to the South African context:
- Children as young as 13 are being treated for digital technology addiction.
- A third of British children aged 12-15 admit that they do not have a good balance between screen time and other activities.
- Two-thirds of teachers said that they were aware of students sharing sexual content (with one in six of these students of primary school age).
- Four in ten parents of 12-15-year-olds find it hard to control their children’s screen time.
A recent report compiled by 30 experts from 14 institutions and organisations in South Africa warned that their research into the consequences of children’s digital habits doesn’t paint a pretty picture. In the online space, the intense and intimate access to children and adolescents’ attention is largely unregulated. As a result, children are susceptible to the addictive nature of online platforms.
The fact that tech gurus don’t let their kids have Smartphones says it all!
What can parents do to prevent online addiction?
- If you catch addiction early enough, you can teach your children how to self-regulate, enjoying and balancing periods of screen time and non-screen time.
- Implement digital curfews at home.
- Limit daily screen time for school-going children to two hours, one hour for preschoolers and zero screen time for children under two years of age.
- Don’t use screens as electronic babysitters.
- Foster passions that aren’t connected to screens – sports, music, drama, art, reading – whatever they are interested in.
- Put away those screens and let your children reconnect with the world and nature.
Send them outdoors!
At Tugela Trails, kids spend their time exploring and enjoying the outdoors. Get in touch to find out more about our outdoor adventures that keep kids away from their screens and back into nature: https://www.tugelatrails.co.za/contact/.