Lockdown and the coronavirus outbreak have thrown up a number of different challenges.
Getting enough exercise, seeing loved ones, overcoming severe bouts of boredom; given the amount of time that we’ve all been spending at home it’s completely natural for us to slip into bad habits and simply reach for the phone, tablet or TV remote when we’re at a loose end.
We understand that living in a tech-driven world, means more accessibility than ever, but it’s important to be aware of the potential risks children face when they are engaging in an excessive amount of screen time.
What is device addiction?
In simple terms, device addiction is when an individual develops a significant need to be engaged with a digital device/screen.
Drilling down more specifically into the issue and focusing on gaming, the World Health Organisation have recognised ‘gaming disorder’ as an actual health condition. They describe it as having a hold over the user, increasing the priority which is given over other daily activities such as exercise and socialising with friends.
Because children’s brains are still developing, they are susceptible to common industry tactics like ‘persuasive design technique’, which is a technique focused around creating hooks that make the user believe they are achieving goals that are more rewarding than those in real life.
This ties into a term called ‘sunk cost fallacy’, where fear creeps in over the possibility of losing what you have worked so hard to achieve. For children, this virtual narrative may be harder to distinguish, compared to adults.
Our recent Online Safety Guide on How Not to Be a Screen Zombie provides further information.
What are the dangers?
Device addiction can result in children losing interest in other physical activities that they might have enjoyed in the past. As well as this, you may notice a negative shift in behavioural actions, which could be heightened upon attempting to reduce their time on their device.
Another concern is centred around concentration levels and a reluctance to do schoolwork and, as many of us are still attempting to home-school through Covid-19, this can become an additional barrier to overcome.
Furthermore, there could be problems with sleeping and performance levels in the classroom may slump as a result.
What is blue light?
Blue light is a fraction of 'visible light' within the electromagnetic spectrum which ultimately helps us to see. Compared to the other colours, blue light has a short wavelength and high energy, meaning your eyes are exposed to a higher frequency wavelength.
The sun is in fact the highest emitter of blue light, but it should be pointed out that LED screen TVs, computer monitors, smart phones and tablet screens also emit blue light.
In the long-term, there are medical concerns around the potential effects of screen exposure as a result of the close-proximity and length of time we spend staring at our various devices. Using devices late at night has the ability to not only effect your sleep patterns at night but can also lead to bouts of tiredness throughout the day.
Advice for parents
This subject can be a scary one for parents to tackle, but fortunately there are a number of techniques you can adopt in order to address any concerns around your child’s screen time:
- Limit your child’s screen time and lay out clear boundaries - use parental controls and device settings to help do this.
- There are many risks associated with devices, such as cyberbullying, grooming, sexting, viewing inappropriate content etc. Less time spent on a screen means that your child will be less exposed to these risks.
- You should look to enforce ‘device-free’ zones, such as the dinner table and in the bedroom.
- Encourage your children to play with their friends, read a book, or to play outdoors. This will help them realise they can also have fun without their device.
- It’s also important to confront your own online habits, to see if these are having a knock-on effect and potentially influencing your child.
Find out more
Part of our Annual Online Safety Course for Parents and Carers 2019-20, our module on the subject of Screen Addiction offers more important information to help protect your children.
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Posted by Pete Badh