Are your kids addicted to their iPads?

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Did you see the article in the media last week about very young children becoming addicted to iPads?

I found this very interesting.

Dr Aric Sigman, writing in the journal of the International Child Neurology Association, cited evidence showing that high exposure to computers by children in their very early years can alter the brains structure. This is worrying – shocking evidence that the ones we love dearly could be in danger.

To be honest, I think as grandparents and parents, many of us have been guilty at one time or another of giving the children a screen to keep them busy during stressful periods, at a dinner table at home or even in a restaurant just for a bit of peace. How many times have you seen children at restaurant tables with screens propped up, the gadgets demanding an almost hypnotic concentration from the child?

A lifetime of addiction?

The article discusses ‘screen dependency disorders’ and a lifetime of addiction, which I must admit, did ring alarm bells for me. All too often, I see children lost in the artificial world of virtual stimulation and I’m sure most of you have seen it too.  The worrying aspect of this modern-day culture is not that the child is looking at a screen, but it’s the way they are looking at the screen and the amount of time they are looking at it.

It’s extremely hard to fight the culture of the screen, because it is backed, promoted and encouraged by massive global companies though TV and magazine adverts, and online. With our busy lives and time pressures, you can see why the easy option is to give in to this new culture. I can totally understand.

I think sometimes that surrendering to the screen is accepted because it can be seen as a positive experience. Of course it can be; screens can be helpful for education and entertainment, as well as for positive stimulation, so we assume that it’s fine, it can’t be that harmful for a child to spend a bit of time watching a screen. Unfortunately, studies and research show that it can actually be very damaging, and if we took notice of how long our children are really watching their screens, I think many of us would be shocked.

What’s the solution?

So, what can we do? Realistically it wouldn’t be possible for most of us to abandon our screens and the benefits they provide, so for me, it is about achieving a realistic balance. It’s better to set reachable expectations for reducing screen use, and if you achieve them, slowly build on them.

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My advice is to keep a diary for a week and record the amount of time your child spends looking at a screen. At the end of the seven days you may be pleasantly surprised, or even horrified at the figures. If it’s the latter, you’ll know that something needs to be done. It’s easy to say, I know – making it happen is a completely different matter. It will take commitment, and at some point an iron will, but based on information that’s coming out about the damage this trend could potentially cause, I think we all owe it to our children to give it our best shot!

I challenge you to keep a diary over the next seven days, recording your child’s time in front of a screen, and don’t worry if the results are worse than you expected, as next week I will post my plan, with helpful advice, tips and support to help you take on this challenge. Good luck!

Nino Severino

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