Smartphones have put the world wide web literally into the palm of our hands, and that wealth of information, entertainment and connectivity has developed addictive behaviour in adults and kids alike.
Amongst adults, some behaviour is mild such as checking the weather or news as soon as they wake up - but for others it can be as extreme as feeling anxious if they don’t have their smartphone with them or if the internet loses connection. Cyber Expert Dr Kristy Goodwin explains ‘Smartphones and technology in general meets three of our most basic psychological needs and biological drivers’ -
- Connection: as humans, one of our most basic human needs is to feel like we belong and that we’re connected to others.
- Control: we like to feel like we have autonomy over a situation. Our digital devices enable us to feel like we’re in control.
- Competence: as humans we’re wired to learn and be effective. We want to feel like we’re successful and can accomplish things. Again, our devices allow us to feel competent.
But, what is our addictive behaviour really costing us?
‘When we’re constantly on our smartphones we risk missing out on the important moments with our kids’ says Dr Kristy. ‘Our kids competing at sporting events or being presented an award, things like that which mean so much to us but we might miss because we’re responding to emails or distracted by a text’. Dr Kristy also reports that there is an increasing number of playground accidents occurring with children while their parents are distracted by smartphones - ‘Studies show that the number of children presenting to the emergency department with injuries caused by falls from playground equipment have increased and pediatricians are suggesting this may be due to parents being distracted and kids taking greater risks due to parents being distracted’. There’s also the issue of kids emulating their parents behaviour, Dr Kristy explains ‘When kids see their parents constantly using their smartphones, they will feel that this behaviour is ok and may end up developing the same addictive behaviour patterns that we do’.
How can parents curb their behaviour?
‘I’m not saying that parents need to switch off entirely, this is just not possible, nor is it necessary. Infact, kids need to see us using technology, but they also need to see us switch off’ explains Dr Kristy. ‘I suggest taking the following simple steps to curb addictive behaviour’.
- Nominate specific times to view social media: ‘By doing this you’ll not feel tempted to get distracted when you’re with your kids’.
- Set up email hours: ‘Email can wait, if there’s an emergency people will call’.
- Turn off alerts and notifications: ‘This will help you stick to your set email and social media allotted times’.
Modelling healthy behaviour around technology goes along way in helping your children to develop the same healthy habits. However, kids have a harder time maintaining these habits and that’s where Family Zone can help - parents can enable cut off times for the internet and block social media and apps during school, study and sleep times to help cement healthy use of smart devices.
Recently my 15-year-old son asked me what I thought was a simple question: “Can I stay with some mates for the weekend out in the country?”
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