Help! Mobile phone addiction is spoiling my family

Help! Mobile phone addiction is spoiling my family. This is the grouse of almost every parent I encounter. They feel helpless and are clueless on how to wean their kids away from mobile phones. The irony is that they themselves too are addicted to it. Here’s an attempt to breakdown the problem and finally offer a 3 step approach that can help you to break free from the problem of mobile phone addiction

  1. The story that repeats itself in every household
  2. The problem – A massive increase in screen time of adults, children
  3. Why mobile devices are so addictive?
  4. Why are parents struggling to reduce screen time of children?
  5. Practical tips to reduce screen time and enjoy quality family time

The story that repeats itself in every household

John comes back home from school and throws his bag on the sofa. He slumps back into the sofa after picking up his mom’s mobile from the tea table in front of him. He starts playing his favorite game PUBG.

His mom call out to him to freshen up and enjoy some delicious chocolate cookies she baked for him. He ignores her. “What mom?”, comes his weak reply when she persists for the third time. He continues playing inspite of her protests. Its only when she comes out to the living room and snatches his mobile does he respond actively. “Mom, I am about to get killed in the game. Give it back”. “No John, shut the game off and wash yourself up.”

Sensing that his pleas will not help, John switches tactics. “Okay mom, promise me that I can use the mobile while I am having snacks. Else, I am not going”.

Mom braces herself and chides him for spending so much time on the mobile. Pat comes the reply, ” You do too, Mom. You spend time on Facebook and WhatsApp. Why can’t I?

Sensing she had been cornered, Mom shrugs and gives in. John rushes to freshen up and in less than 30 seconds is back on the sofa with the mobile in his hands. Mom resignedly places a plate of cookies beside him and goes back to the kitchen.

Mobile Phones, smartphones, tablets, cell phones are present all around us. People are increasingly spending more and more time on their mobile devices. The same is the case with children. This is affecting not just their studies but also limiting their physical activity. Parents are increasingly realising that mobile phone addiction is spoiling their children.

Massive Increase in Screen Time of Children

Average Time Spent per Day on Mobile
Time spent on mobile phones has exploded over the last 6 years
Screen time has exploded from an average of 2.1 hours per day in 2012 to 4.2 hours per day in 2018 Click To Tweet

Time spent by individuals viewing their mobile devices like cell phones, smartphones, tablets, mobile phones, etc is referred to as ‘Screen Time’. Screen time as seen in the above graph has exploded over the last 6 years thanks to faster internet, powerful phones and cheaper devices.

Why are mobile devices so addictive?

Children get hooked on to mobile devices like cell phones, tablets, smartphones, mobile phones easily since they provide pleasure to multiple senses.

  • These small screens are portable and they provide visual pleasure with their colourful and bright screens.
  • They provide auditory pleasure with their ability to play songs, talk back to the user and provide audio feedback.
  • They provide the pleasure of touch since they are easy to carry around and provide feedback via vibration.
  • Add to all this, the connectivity to the Internet, that brings all the digital world within their reach.

Why are parents struggling to reduce screen time among children?

The problem of mobile phone addiction takes a turn for the worse among young children since they do not understand the long term negative impacts and they revolt when adults preach abstinence to them. Click To Tweet

The problem is all the more exacerbated when parents are equally addicted to devices. They do not practice what they preach. Parents and guardians spend a lot of time on their devices while ignoring the responsibility they have towards kids. They also scold and punish their kids for spending too much time on mobile devices.

How then do we reduce the screen time of kids?

A concerted effort led by parents and that involves their family can do wonders to not only the children but also to adults at home. While children are weaned away from the screens, adults can spend quality time with family.

Practical tips to reduce mobile phone addiction among children and adults

Consensus Building

Call a family meeting with adults and children too. Use the opportunity to talk about how mobile devices are

  1. Causing a disruption in quality time all present could have had otherwise
  2. Disturbing study routines of kids.
  3. Causing health issues like teary eyes, neck pain and possibly even mobile radiation related problems

Actively Replace Mobile Time with other activities

Avoid mobile devices by brainstorming on replacement activities that can help engage the family members, especially kids. Use the freed up time judiciously.

The Practical 3 Step Guide to Help Your Family kick Mobile Addiction
The Practical 3 Step Guide to Help Your Family kick Mobile Addiction
  1. Zero-mobile time – Fix up a time of 2 hours in the evening when nobody touches a mobile device. If required keep a basket in the hall where everybody deposits their mobiles for this time.
  2. Turn off WiFi – Turn the WiFi off for a fixed period of time during the day.
  3. Fill up the freed time – Play a family game, watch an occasional movie together, talk about the day’s activities and so on.
  4. Empathise with Kids – While adults adapt quickly to these changes, children can find it difficult to adjust. They may throw tantrums, refuse to cooperate and may act refuse to toe the line. Empathise, but do not give in to their demands. Be ready to weather the storm for a few days.
  5. Joint screen time – Tell kids that you have the power to grant 10 minutes of joint screen time if they are cooperative and finish their chores. Joint screen time is an opportunity to channelise their screen time in the right path.

A right attitude and a willingness to enforce change can do wonders in getting your family to kick mobile addiction.

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