My child interacts with a screen for no more than the two daily hours permitted by the American Academy of Pediatrics. He’s OK. I’m OK. We’re OK! you tell yourself. Tech isn’t going away. It will be a major part of his future. You don’t want him left behind (STEM!). Plus, if you deprive him, he’ll just binge on Fortnite the second he’s out of your sight. It’s all about balance, right?
But what are you supposed to do when you go to turn off the Minecraft or pull away the iPad in the middle of a Sofia the First episode, and your kid reacts with feral-animal rage? Is this screen addiction? Is this the new normal? And if so, is it a status quo we’re willing to accept?
You’re not the only parent experiencing low-level panic. Some are hiring coaches or “screen consultants”—and paying $250 an hour on the high end—to help reprogram their kids. Dr. Colleen Carroll, founder of the Screen Freedom Center, wrote a book called Hooked on Screens: How to Get Your 5-14 Year Old to Put Down the Phones, Video Games and Electronic Devices and Pick Up a Book. She offers a free quiz to determine where on the continuum of screen addiction your kid may fall and a guide to digital detoxing. But before you begin to address the problem, the first step is admitting you (they…we…) have one.
Here are five signs of screen addiction in kids, and suggestions for how to shut it down.