When most people think about addiction, they think about addiction to drugs or alcohol, or maybe prescription medication. But there is another kind of addiction that is perhaps even more common, and with harmful effects that might be harder to notice: social media and technology addiction.
We’ve all experienced it, the sudden realization that everyone gathered for family time in a living room or surrounded by friends at a restaurant table is actually glued to their smartphone. What seems like a few harmless minutes of scrolling adds up, and people who install “average screen time” monitors on their devices are often astounded at the results. Studies show that mindlessly scrolling through social apps actually makes us unhappy, and yet we continue to waste time looking at social media platforms on our devices instead of spending time on the tasks, work, hobbies, passions, and relationships that we truly want to give energy and attention to.
The scary thing about this addiction is that it is seeping into the daily – and nightly – routines of children at an alarming rate. Almost a quarter of children surveyed in a report by the BBC were online more than their parents.
Consider the impact our technology and social media addictions have on children. According to the BBC, 43% of parents surveyed across Europe were concerned that their children’s gadget use habits had negative effects, and yet many admitted that they set a bad example themselves.
Negative effects of social media discussed in the survey included a decline in both social skills and mental health due to excessive technology use.
Many parents in the survey responded that they weren’t sure how to deal with technology or social media addiction in their families. The BBC put together the following tips for how parents can respond to the technology use of their children in a healthy way:
- Set house rules such as screen time limits, and what children are allowed to view
- Talk to children about what they do and see online
- Encourage them to communicate with friends in online social spaces
- Teach children to think before they click
- Use tech tools to limit how much inappropriate content they see
- Discuss the risks of posting private data, images, and videos to social networks
- Be a good role model
It seems that when children are concerned, the impetus is on parents to set a healthy example. FastCompany suggests a few ways to curb a harmful habit that can easily spiral out of control:
- Delete social media or other “time waster” apps from your phone
- Use apps like Flipd to block addictive apps during certain times of the day
- Ask your friends to hide your phone for periods of time
- Consider switching to a non-smartphone (23% of Americans are currently paving the way!)
Think about it – when people talk about the harmful effects of addiction to drugs, alcohol, or medications, the common themes include: decrease in productivity, disconnect with loved ones, a negative example to children, and unhealthy mental health effects. Addiction to social media and technology yield the same results! Let’s work together to call it out as a real addiction and transform our habits and our families!