Is my child addicted to their digital device?

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There is growing concern among mental health professionals that children are spending too much time looking at or monitoring their phones, tablets or being on their computers.

Terms are being thrown around like "digital heroin" or "electronic cocaine" among mental health researchers in the area of online gaming to identify just how serious childrens use of computer games (World of Warcraft, MInecraft, etc) has become.  The impact of these games on a young child's developing brain is just now being understood with worrying conclusions. The American Psychological Association in its next edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (the bible for mental health professionals in the diagnosis of mental health disorders) will be including Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD).

But what about the use of these digital devices on children's development? Everywhere you look these days whether at a park, restaurant, on the train or just about anywhere really, you will see children glued to their electronic device.  This prompts the question of how much time using these devices is too much? What signs are there that the use of these devices is having a negative effect on my child's development?

Although there is no official list relating to the signs and symptoms associated with children's use of electronic devices, I have looked at the research and come up with the following list.  The age range for this list is 4 through 17.

1) Parents fear extreme behavioural outbursts if the device is taken away from their child. The extreme nature of the outburst causes them not to consider this option.

2) Your child wont go anywhere without their device.

3) Your child avoids other activities that they liked to do to be on their device.

4) Poor sleep habits. Cant go to sleep without looking at their device or use their device into the early hours of the morning because they cant sleep.

5) Your child uses their device more than 3 hours a day.

6) Your child becomes anxious if they are unable to check their device regularly throughout the day. Very concerned that they are missing out on something if they dont.

7) Your child has difficulty stopping the use of the device to do some other activity.

8) Your child has started to withdraw from friends and family to be on their device.

9) Your child's moods are changing where they are being more anxious, aggressive, depressed or inattentive.

10) Interaction with family members is becoming more strained due to your child's inability to negotiate in situations of disagreement (a more rigid mindset).

Should your child exhibit more than 4 of the above behaviours then there maybe a problem regarding your child's use of their device and it should be monitored. If your child exhibits 6 or more items then you should seek advice from a mental health professional.

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