Parenting isn’t a walk in the park, and the advent of technology made it even more challenging. Most parents are familiar with this: constant pleas and demands of video games from their 8-year-olds all day long. As if it wasn’t enough, the rise of technology also paved the way for increased smartphone usage amongst children. While most of us parents provided children with modern technology with best intentions, it, unfortunately, fired back at us.
According to a recent study, children aged eight to 12 have largely lost interest in spending time outdoors. Instead, they now prefer to stay within the confines of their homes striking the buttons of video game controllers or surfing the Internet mindlessly on smartphones and iPads.
The question we have heard and thought about umpteen times, just how much is too much? We are talking about serious digital parenting concerns that are adversely affecting our children. While there are many benefits that technology brings to us and our children, we should also be mindful of the negative effects arising from increased screen time.
You may have experienced moments when you are in a room with your family, but you are not interacting. You are ‘alone together’. Everyone else is either staring down at their devices or taking selfies. This is what is now termed as technoference. Technoference is simply digital behaviour during social interactions that affects relationships and interrupts conversations, even family dinners and gatherings.
By now, you might have already heard of several terms associated with the use of screen time. If you haven’t, it’s still not too late! The team at Tittle for Parents have gathered some key digital parenting and digital disorder terms you must know in 2020! Read on to find out.
Back in the good old days, children scurry to their mothers when they get splinters in their thumb. Fast forward to the present in 2020, kids turn to Google for suggestions and ‘expert advice’ instead. The term cyberchondria refers to a state when an individual perpetually scrolls the internet for symptoms of a condition that may not exist. This self-diagnosis and the anxiety of possibly suffering from a life-threatening disease gets on the nerves of the child and bugs him night and day.
Your child may have cyberchondria if he Googles the symptoms for “unexplained” migraines, abdomen discomfort or chest pains four to five times a day, convinced he is either “dying” or requires immediate medical treatment. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), which includes changing the way one responds to certain actions is a proven treatment for this disorder. It helps individuals in transforming negative behaviour patterns into something more comforting and useful.
Playstation, Xbox, the new Nintendo Switch console – the hype never wanes! In fact, some parents would agree that these consoles cost more than just hundreds of dollars, they also brought about unnecessary headaches and worries – the health of your 10 to 12-year-olds. Cybersickness is a term related to virtual reality, where your child feels nauseated and dizzy after spending some time on a VR console.
If you wonder if complete confinement of your child’s gaming hours is the perfect solution, the short answer is no, unless you want to face the tantrums of your young ones. Instead of keeping them away from the game consoles, you can start by explaining to your child the harmful effects of VR gaming and why there is a need to regulate his playtime. Consult a physician if your child gets really sick after wearing a VR headset.
Is there too much clutter on your child’s desktop? Does your child save many files on your computer like games and videos that he doesn’t even play? If your answer to any of those is yes, he might be having this digital disorder. Just like hoarding, cyberhoarding is when an individual is reluctant to or, fearful of removing his digital downloads, messages, emails and more, even when he doesn’t require them anymore.
The trick to help your child get rid of cyberhoarding is by building a routine and helping him to accept the idea slowly. You can encourage him to sort out the clutter, delete his unwanted files in his free time or start with one folder a week. Once your child incorporates this habit, he can keep cyberhoarding at bay.
In the past, men couldn’t leave home without a handkerchief and a watch. Ladies didn’t step outside without their handbags. These days, we can’t leave home without our devices. When that happens, we are often left in a jittery mood the entire day, fearing we would have missed important calls, news, social media updates or our game rewards. This mindset links to nomophobia, which is common amongst both children and adults.
The term nomophobia (or no-mobile-phobia) refers to the irrational fear of the absence of a smartphone or any other digital device. If your child gets agitated when you take away his smartphone, refuses to finish his breakfast or do his homework, it is an indication of this digital disorder.
Being unable to enjoy on his own without smartphone screen time is an obvious sign that your child is addicted to his gadgets. To overcome this, start regulating his screen time use and encourage participation in other physical activities! Become more active by picking up a sport, going for music or dance classes, or even martial arts! Over time, you should see a gradual improvement in his behaviour.
As the term suggests, Fear-of-Missing-Out or FOMO is the fear of missing out on something that someone else is doing, for instance, a trip that you couldn’t join or the party you couldn’t attend because you registered too late. Often, this leads to excessive checking of social media, as one feels compelled to catch up on what’s happening. FOMO is thus, characterised by a toxic mentality in which one believes that others are having more fun than him/her.
While it happens to both adults and children, it is usually tougher for the latter to process this set of emotions, which involves envy and discontentment. For kids, they may not fully grasp why they can’t go on that expensive school outing with his peers, or why they weren’t allowed to buy the trending new 21-speed cycle. Or even the cosplay outfit of the latest Disney princess that another child wore in her Instagram post. This creates anxiety and depression, and seeing other people having what he/she doesn’t have is not helpful.
You might not be able to take your child to a thousand dollars exotic holiday destination, but planning a day out of quality family fun might make him feel loved and not missing out on all the “fun” stuff!
Fear-of-Being-Outcompeted, the lesser known cousin of FOMO, is an inferiority complex where one fears that he does not measure up to standards or becomes uncertain of his own abilities. This could be exacerbated after seeing how others are “better” via social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram. This digital disorder can arrive as the result of FOMO but is worse for an adolescent who may end up developing a pessimistic mindset.
When a child sees photos of another child’s achievements, or the popularity of an “influencer” or “YouTube sensation” of his age on social media, his confidence may falter. He may start underestimating the skills he possesses. Lack of confidence and will to participate in activities that he used to enjoy are a sign of this disorder.
What your child needs is constant positive reinforcement and encouragement, reassuring him that every individual has his/her forte. And there is no need to be too hung up over the achievements of others. We don’t always win, and that is okay. Instead of the end result, we should learn to focus on the process.
Affecting both children and adults, next on our list is the Google Effect. It is a type of amnesia in which people tend to forget things that they can easily find on the internet, including birthdays of your dear ones.
You can save your child from this effect by encouraging him to gather trivial information via other means. For instance, let him find the meaning of a new word in a dictionary instead of Google. Get him to check a calendar for the list of holidays or visit the library for school project information!
If your child has more than two of the aforementioned disorders, they are likely to have this too.
It often happens with parents when they keep calling out to their kids for dinner only to get no response. Their children are preoccupied on YouTube and/or social media. Addiction to online RPG, MMORPG, and battle royal games like PUBG and Fortnite are also a part of this disorder. Your child feels a sense of euphoria whenever he is online, and loses his sense of time. Other symptoms of this syndrome include isolation from other children, lack of physical activity, even feeling lethargic without even hitting the playground.
Some measures that you can take to bid farewell to internet addiction syndrome are setting rules for internet usage and increasing your child’s outdoor playtime hours. You can also create bedtime schedules every night to prevent your child from using his devices during his bedtime.
No matter what hurdle burdens your child, with proper parenting, you can always comfort him. The key to solving digital parenting problems is regulation, not restriction. While slamming your decisions on your children can have a revolting effect, proper parental control has an inverse effect. Promoting healthier screen time is what parents need to take control of the above-mentioned disorders.