What to Do If Your Child is Addicted to Their Screen

In an age where children have almost 24/7 access to the computer, tablet, or phone, it is easy for the screen to monopolize their time. What does digital dependency look like, and how do you handle it if it occurs?

1. Evaluate

The signs of digital dependency can be easy to spot. For example, your child may regularly choose screen time over other activities. They might react aggressively when they aren’t allowed to have their device. In a more serious case, their friendships and family relationships may suffer due to the amount of time they are on their phones. Or they may get easily distracted while trying to do chores or homework. If this is the case, it is probably time to step in. These are likely indicators your child is having too much screen time.

2. Set boundaries 

You can start by limiting your child’s screen time for the day. Should they only have 20 minutes of computer time? An hour? Find what works best for your family. You can also create tech-free zones, where your child is not allowed to bring an electronic device. This could be their room, the kitchen table, or their desk. Consider also establishing tech-free times during the day, when your child cannot access their screen. For example, this could be during the evenings when the family is together. Interact with your child when they are using technology. While they are on the computer, keep the door open and talk to them occasionally. You can also keep them in a room with their siblings, to prevent complete absorption in the screen.

3. Encourage physical activity

Finally, make sure your child is getting plenty of physical activity in! You can do this by incorporating activity into screen time. For example, when a commercial break comes on during their favorite show, mute the TV and have your child run a lap, do jumping jacks, or somersault across the floor. This gets their blood moving and gives their brain a break. You can also implement the “sunny day” rule: if it is sunny outside, your child must do something active outdoors.

Weaning your child off of the screen can be a challenge sometimes, but establishing a regular schedule, with clear expectations and plenty of activity, should help!

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