Before I take off reminiscing the pristine days of our childhood where we spent more time playing than being indoors, let me also point to a reality. In the India of my childhood and early youth, there was no internet, no addictive electronic devices, gadgets or games that we could be engrossed in for hours. So there is actually no comparison to how we would have been had those existed. Even the satellite channels came in much later. I am just glad that we grew up in that era (though Google would have been good to have!).

electronic device addiction in kids

But, today from an early age, we let our kids watch videos on gadgets (some of them interactive), television and most tiny tots are pretty proficient with their parents’ phones. Little toddlers have a meltdown at the drop of the hat and harried parents often give their phones only for the sake of peace. I did not need to do it for both my kids. But the younger son since the past two years has completely taken on to watching videos of planes and other automobiles. He also loves playing games. Despite my strict rules about electronic device time, I did find him browsing the videos without telling me. That lead to many tiffs. Eventually, I got so sick of his behaviour that sometime in November, he lost all his privileges. He was only allowed to read books, no TV time, no screen time of any sort.

To say that it was tough would be an understatement but three months later when some of his privileges have been reinstated, there has been progress. He often complained of lack of focus and boredom earlier. I am not sure if that has been rectified now, but his complaints have reduced. Here are some ways to deal with electronic device addiction in kids from my personal experience:

1. Acknowledge that there is a problem

I feel the biggest roadblock is that as parents we feel so helpless that we often feel that it is okay for the kids to have the screen time that they do. Most surprising is those parents who are not even conscious of the fact that their kids are always on screens. I know that my older son’s friends have unrestricted screen time. Okay they are 16+, but I don’t think that ensures that most of them are not stuck to their devices. At get togethers, I often see kids slouched over tablets or phones of their parents. It is the easiest way to keep them ‘engaged’ while parents can unwind. I am not judging parents. We are human after all. But kids take advantage of this by throwing tantrums and demanding hours of uninterrupted game or screen time. I would suggest that we all do an audit of how much time our kids are spending on any devices they own and accordingly decide whether they should be asked to cut back. Not only are their necks and hands going to suffer in the long run, but their social interactions, focus and concentration as well. Some pointers that would help you:

How often do you charge the gadgets that your kids use?

Is it possible for your children to occupy themselves without demanding to use an electronic device?

Are your kids always having mobile phones, tablets or laptops close at hand at all times?

2. Set very clear rules about device usage and time and implement them

Often we parents are easily manipulated or feel very bad in taking away privileges even if they are harmful. Also arguments like all their friends have it or that they use electronic devices for lesser time than friends should not cut ice. I may sound heartless, but I don’t care about what other parents do. As a parent, I am responsible for my child’s wellbeing, and I will take action that befits that. Hence, I am never afraid to implement the strictest of rules. What I also do is that I have very clear instructions and rules. Hence the child does not feel cheated or cannot wiggle their way in by confusing me. I even make them write the rules in a book to refer to. You know how kids argue the hell out of you. And after the first part is done, I fairly implement them. Very rarely will I give in. And I’ve seen that though this approach may take time, it always yields results.

3. Do more family activities together

We’ve started playing cards and other board games together. We also watch a few movies together. I would play table tennis and badminton with them earlier before the knee injury, but we do take them along regularly for walks. Not only does it give us more time to bond as a family, communicate better, but it also gives them more things to be engaged in. Thus taking care of their perpetual boredom issue. We have also done away with our TV. That way all that idle viewing has become reduced. Now we watch some shows, movies and series only online.

4. Encourage them to read and try other activities

If you can involve your kids in some kind of neighbourhood or school volunteering activities, then that is a positive way of spending their time. Reading is an all-time favourite recreation that is very desirable. Sport is another option. Craft, storytelling, painting, cooking, gardening are other activities that they can do along with you or with your guidance. Let us show them a world beyond the virtual world.

5. Control our own screen time:

For most parents, this is the toughest. If we complain about kids being stuck to their electronic devices, well parents don’t fare any better. I have worked very hard to be online as little as possible. I hardly ever do recreational browsing. I try to schedule my work-related social media posts. We have to lead by example for sure. And sorry to say but most parents fail miserably at this.

electronic device addiction in kids

Finally, remember that it will not be easy. Your kids will have thousands of arguments to sway you. They will emotionally blackmail you and even call you names. But don’t despair. It is not easy to get rid of any addiction. Hopefully, they will thank you when they are older. It will also help them focus better at their learning if they don’t become scatter brained by being too involved with their online activities. Also remember to reach out to a therapist for more strategies. There are counselors in schools these days that you can approach. All these have helped me. But it is an ongoing process. Hope that these strategies help you deal with any electronic device addiction that your kids may have.

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I am interested in hearing if your kids spend a lot of time on electronic devices or even watching the idiot box. And how do you deal with it?

Stock images by Chinnapong, By Dragon Images and by nmedia on Shutterstock

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25 Thoughts on “5 Ways to Deal with Electronic Device Addiction in Kids

  1. That is very sound advice, Rachna. Many people live in denial, so I agree that acknowledging the problem is the first, most critical step. And then after that, consistent implementation and follow through helps.

    Oh and yes, while I am glad I did not have these many distractions while growing up, Google would have been great. But I guess that would have inevitably led to other non desirables, like it did – natural ripple effect. Like they say, when we choose one end of the stick, we also choose the other.

    • Thanks Shantala! Yes, I’ve seen that denial bit in many of my friends.

      I agree with your other point too. I guess we can’t pick and choose. We get the whole deal or nothing. ?

  2. Some great advice there, Rachna! I hate seeing kids glued to their mobile phones and iPads all the time. While I know it is difficult to make them eat and kost parents resort to playing rhymes on television or other electronic device, it kinda is really sad. I’m not in a position to say how ot should be done but i hope the tips that you’ve mentioned sounds sane.

  3. It’s so tough isn’t it? I think the last point you’ve made in particular is very important. Parents need to be role models for their kids. I don’t have kids but I realised I’d been using my phone a fair bit particularly Insta – so I cut down deliberately last week and monitored my use a lot more. Apple monitors screen time now and while it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s frustrating when I use the phone for music and working and talking to friends! 😀

    • It is really tough, I agree. Even I do the same, consciously step back from time to time. Even my Pixel has a Digital Wellbeing app. So I’ve set times for platforms like Insta and FB groups etc. Once I reach that time limit for the day, it denies me access to those apps. I find this a very stress free way of keeping my online browsing in check. I also rely more on scheduling especially for blog or work-related updates.

  4. I am all for strict rules when it comes to regulating screen time at home. Once upon a time, the rule was no TV, no phone on weekdays with an hour or movie allowance on weekends. I cannot emphasize how wonderful those times were. Now the rule is no screen until Papa comes back home in the evening because then all the screen related rules vanish off in thin air. The onus is really on the parents how they really lessen their screen time. For some it can be easy, for some other it is not easily done.

    • I completely understand what you are saying, Anamika. Parents have to be on the same page when implementing these rules. My husband browses more in the evening compared to me. But he is equally supportive of the time that kids are allowed to browse. And yes, it is much tougher to convince adults. I guess that is the toughest part to crack.

  5. Very logically explained, all these points are important but i think the last one plays a vital role as i have seen some parents crazily addicted to mobile.

  6. Such a good set of suggestions here, Rachna.

    As you know V and I have been pretty firm when it comes to devices for kids. Again, not judging any other parent for what they do. I know it’s hard enough being a parent.

    I totally am on board with reading, other activities and even movies that we watch together as a family. Plus, outdoor play. So important even today.

    Hopefully more parents read this and make the right decision for their kids and themselves.

  7. I think when you were growing up, there was computer and computer games, right? I remember both the boys playing those graphic games for hours, till I had put my foot down. Indeed, the younger one tried every ruse, including branding me the worst mother because ALL his friends played games for hours and hours. I said, I was ok being the worst mother but that if he wanted to sit at the computer, he’d better learn something. That was how he learnt a lot of stuff. Soon he was helping adults troubleshoot and was much sought after! Years later, he acknowledged the fact that it had been my ban that had led to his learning to work on the computer and learn its working. So yes, what you tried with your younger one sounds perfect, for this age and time! Hugs to my favourite girl!

    • You did great! Yes there were computer games but somehow they did not catch my fancy. Good to know that one day they will realise that what I did actually helped them form better habits. Thank you for the validation! Hugs back. ❤️

  8. Very good suggestions Rachana. I have been wanting to restrict the boys’ screen time but I used to feel bad about it. But, after reading this, I have straight away set up time restrictions for the boys on the wi-fi. No night surfing, and no surfing during study time. That should work. Hopefully, they will improve.

  9. I totally agree with these 5 points. The kids should come out of their digital worlds for some more amount of time and explore other things of this beautiful world. Very nicely written.

  10. I totally agree with you . Kids totally learn by what they see. So when they see parents stick to their cell ,they follow the same .
    I am still struggling for controlling the screen time for my son .
    Hope your tips help.

  11. This is all such great advice! My children are now 18 and 16 but between the ages of 11 and 16, they were not allowed screen time at all between Sunday and Friday. I was very strict! They could do whatever they liked Friday and Saturday and that worked for us. I think that even in the last 8 years, things seemed to have moved on. Mine never had tablets for example and they didn’t get an iPhone until they were 14. I see little kids with iPhones and wonder why they need them! Mine never had any kind of gadget before they were 10 as they weren’t any really (well I suppose there were DS games). How times change…..#tweensteensbeyond

  12. As you say Rachna things have changed so much, we are all now so dependent upon one screen or another. I know that since blogging my screen time has gone through the roof and I am always quite mindful of the time I spend on my devices in front of my teens. Mine are now 16 and 19 so it is getting tougher to control their screen time but my golden rules are not screens at meal times or in their bedrooms at night and we urge them on a regular basis to take a break from their screens. Some great tips here for everyone. Thanks for sharing them with us. #TweensTeensBeyond

  13. Some great practical advice here Rachna. I agree that finding an alternative, or helping them find an alternative, is crucial. Also, looking at our own screen time is important. I took a break from FaceBook last year and haven’t looked back – I have so much more time! Thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

  14. I totally agree on this one Rachna. Something we’ve had to clamp down on again recently as the time just creeps up if you are not constantly monitoring. Aside from anything else, I miss the engagement as a family when the screen becomes the focus. I really don’t want us to lose our quality time together. It’s an ongoing project but the benefits are huge. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us at #tweensteensbeyond.

Do not leave without commenting. I love a good conversation :).

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