Is Your Anxious Child Addicted to His iPad?

ipadIf your anxious child appears more stressed-out or ornery than usual, there may be dozens of causes behind the increased anxiety. One of those reasons, however, may be as close as his or her fingertips, with children becoming addicted to their iPads, tablets, smartphones or other digital devices.

You’re Kidding, Right?

Digital addiction is nothing we just made up. Nor is it anything new. The only new twist on the phenomenon is the source of the obsession. The tablet or iPad has been replacing the TV or video game console as a main source of entertainment, interaction and all-out addiction.

A review of 2012 statistics that looked at children’s wish lists for Christmas paints a pretty clear picture. Forbes reports the top five asked-for items for children between the ages of 6 and 12 were:

  1. Apple iPad
  2. Nintendo Wii U
  3. iPad Touch
  4. iPhone

Whatever happened to the good ole bicycle under the tree?

The detrimental side effects of too much time on the tablet are similar to those found from too much gaming, a topic we covered in our post How Gaming Affects Your Anxious Child’s Brain.

Detrimental Side Effects

Pain and stiffness. Yes, it might be tough to think your bouncy tot could become stiff, but stiff, sore muscles and pain become a risk for anyone who remains in a stagnant position for hours on end.

High chance of obesity. All that inactivity can also take a toll on your child’s weight, pushing it up into the obesity zone.

Trouble sleeping. Digital overstimulation, especially near bedtime, can make it tough for anyone to fall asleep. Add the backlit displays sported by many digital devices and sleep becomes even more elusive due to the light that suppresses your child’s melatonin production.

Lack of friends and social interaction. Your anxious child may be low on friends not because he or she is shy or anxious. The reason could be because they already have a true best friend, it just happens to be in the form of a tablet or iPad. Isolation can become a way of life, eventually making any social situation unknown territory that brings on anxiety and fear. 

Warning Signs of Digital Addiction

A major side effect that can stem from too much tablet time is a full-blown addiction to the device. Leave your children to play on their tablets as long and as frequently as they please and they can end up obsessed with it. They may develop an overriding compulsion to play no matter what, at the expense of everything else in their life. LiveScience and the UK’s Daily Mail compiled a number of warning signs that could indicate your child is indeed addicted to technology.

Losing Interest in Everything Else

Remember when your child enjoyed Play-Doh, puppet shows and a sunny trek to the park? Those days are long gone if your child suffers a digital addiction. Friends, family, school work, sports and all other activities and interests that used to excite your child no longer even spark a passing interest. Your child is instead only interested in spending more and more time on his or her tablet or otherwise engaging with technology.

Losing interest in other activities often results in myriad opportunities. Your anxious child may no longer making new friends or even keeping the ones he or she has. School work may suffer. Chores might not get done. Addiction has likely set in when children detach from the world around them and is only interested in relating to technology.

Increased Need for Screen Time

Just as drug addicts often need more and more drugs to get the same high, children addicted to technology can build up tolerance levels that leave them needing more and more screen time. If they end up becoming angry or argumentative when you mention they’re spending too much time technology, that may be another warning that not only are they addicted but they’re in denial about their addiction.

Lying about It

Children who are addicted to technology will often lie about using it. You may find your child sneaking around, trying to use his laptop on the sly or hunkered beneath the covers texting on her smartphone. They’ll try to keep their use of the devices secret to keep you in the dark as to how much of their lives is being sucked away into cyberspace.

Losing Control over It

More and more screen time leads to even more screen time and can lead to the inability to control their habits at all. Children may become wholly obsessed and out-of-control with their technology use, even in the youngest set. If taking the iPad away from your 4-year-old results in a major temper tantrum every single time, you may have a bit of an issue on your hands. Other obsession signs include constantly checking their device or being so distracted thinking about the next time they can hop on their device they have trouble focusing on things right in front of them.

Using It as a Coping Mechanism

If your child runs to his or her laptop, tablet or smartphone every time he fights with his sister, she argues with dad or faces any other uncomfortable situation, the device may have become a way to cope. The same thing happens with addicts who run to a drink or a drug every time something difficult erupts in their lives.

A full-blown addiction to technology is typically evident when several of the warning signs are consistently present. Technology does play a huge role in everyone’s lives these days, but the key is to ensure it is not playing the starring role. If your anxious child is showing signs of addiction, all is not lost. We’ll next be discussing signs of withdrawal and how to help your child through a “digital detox.”

Stay tuned!  


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