Technology has made things easy across the world and provided solutions to critical situations. Men and women, young and old have benefited one way or the other from technological breakthroughs. From technology evolved gadgets for adults and children. The various gadgets for children keep them occupied, engage in learning and fun activities. But they have their drawbacks if they are used in excess. This is where the parents need to be watchful of their kids, hence the tools become a burden to them.
In his explanation of what an addiction means, the Vice-President, National Association of Clinical Psychologists, Afolabi Aroyehun said whether someone was addicted to food, substance or gadgets, they are controlled by the same neuro-cognitive pathway.
He said, “They all act on the neuron centre. The more you do it and get rewarded for it, the more you get addicted to it. In the brain, it is the same pathway that makes people get addicted to sugar, caffeine or drugs, that is also responsible for gadget addiction because of the reward one derives using it.”
Commenting on the matter, an entrepreneur, mother and homeschooler, Claire Roach, said that though her children loved using their gadgets, during the COVID-19 lockdown, which hindered them from engaging in outdoor activities, they became more addicted to them.
She said, “I gave up trying to ensure that they are not addicted to their gadgets when children were locked up at home for over a year. I just felt like I was fighting a losing battle trying to keep them entertained day in and day out, while trying to work and homeschool, with the entire world locked down for an entire year. Pre-Covid, I was strict, but it was too hard trying to juggle everything.”
Aroyehun added that loneliness and inability to interact with people are reasons children with access to gadgets become addicted.
He said, “Children now have a lot of free time on their hands and with the availability of the internet, reverting to their gadgets becomes a plausible activity. Children need interaction with other children and adults, they need someone to engage them, once they cannot get this and their gadgets can take care of their loneliness, a time will come when they will not see any need to interact with humans”
A parent and food scientist, Opeyemi Alabi, said while her child uses gadgets for learning purposes, she regulates his screen time so he does not disconnect from the physical world.
Alabi stated, “My son loves watching educational and kids friendly entertaining activities with a tablet or computer. He learns language via YouTube and TV also. He is bilingual. I try to regulate his screen time so he can physically connect with the real world. I collect it from him when I feel enough is enough.”
She added that consistent timing of her child’s screen time had helped her child to adjust to the limited time for gadget use.
Speaking on her child’s love for gadgets, a mother, Ifeoluwa Oyebolu, said that her daughter loved cartoons and threw tantrums when not allowed to watch them.
“My daughter loves cartoons and when she asks and I say no, she throws tantrums for a while but then forgets about it and occupies herself with something else.”
Oyebolu noted that she allowed her daughter to watch cartoons when she was not among her friends and when at home, she was occupied with colouring or playing legos.
On her part, another parent, Vivian Chika, said that she often collected the phone at intervals from her two-year-old daughter, adding that she did that always with a song that screen time was over whenever she threw tantrums.
“I allow my baby to watch educational videos on the phone. It keeps her busy when I am engaged. It has been really helpful because she can now identify the alphabets, numbers 1-20, shapes and colours. To avoid addiction, I collect the phone at intervals. She sometimes wants to protest but I explain with a song that looking at the screen for long is not good for the eyes,” Chika added.
She also noted that she kept her daughter busy with painting, scribbling and watching pictures once screen time was over.
Also, a parent, Rachel Ahonsu, told our correspondent that her children recognised and understood her authority in the house so they obeyed her instructions when she told them to turn off their gadgets.
Ahonsu added, “One of the basic things is ‘letting your child know you are in charge’ right from time. If that’s clear, when you instruct them to turn off the TV or gadget or when you say ‘it is enough’, it will be easier for them to comply. They’ll be displeased for sure, but they just know they have to obey.”
A strategy consultant, Adeola Kayode, said that digital and mobile gadgets connected children with opportunities to learn and get connected to various knowledge and fun resources.
He, however, noted that it should not compromise a child’s mental and social development.
Kayode further said addiction to gadgets in children could be prevented when parents and caregivers, “have and follow a workable screen timetable; buy children-specific devices or use apps to limit the visit to unhealthy and compromising sites and apps; use apps and tools to monitor activity on your children’s device and have a specific learning outcome or project they are engaged in.”
In her contribution, a cyber security expert, Confidence Staveley, said that gadgets addiction in children could be converted from being unregulated and unproductive when parents leverage apps that could regulate screen time and content
She said, “Parents can find digital skills that interest their children, then encourage and provide the tools for their children to learn those skills, thereby converting their device addiction from unproductive to productive.
“Parents can also leverage apps like Google Family link, to regulate content children consume, time spent on devices, etc. Depending on how old the children are, parents can agree and jointly develop a technology use policy for the home.”
Furthermore, Aroyehun said, to solve gadget addiction in children, a multi-faceted approach was needed.
He said, “The first is to set boundaries for children. Set a time limit when they can use their gadgets. You have to reach an agreement with them to make them see the danger their addiction can cause and based on that, you agree on the steps you have to take.
“Also, have an alternative activity they can devote their time to apart from the gadgets. Many children are lost in their world. The parents just throw a phone or laptop at them and are left alone with nothing else that can take their attention apart from the gadgets. We must make available other things they can do to spend their time doing. You may want to introduce exercises and sporting activities.
“Many parents have neglected their role of having a relationship and talking with their children, gadgets have replaced that role. Parents need to come back to playing their role as parents, they should ask about the welfare of their children, discuss with them, interact with them. Don’t let gadgets take your place as a parent in the life of your children.”
Aroyehun further said that a different approach was needed for children already addicted to gadgets. He added, “For children who have become seriously addicted to gadgets, a bigger approach needs to be taken to resolve it. Sometimes, admission into an addiction centre will be necessary.”