Smartphone addiction has become the norm. It is a common sight to see a child engrossed in their smartphone because of social media, messaging or games. However, this can become worrying when this leads to them failing to notice anything around them over a long period of time. It is even worse if this situation carries on for most of the day. This will often be easily recognised by a parent who may relay their concerns to you as a childcare professional.
When this happens, you may be instructed to keep an eye on the child to monitor their use of the smartphone. Some parents may even want you to limit their use of it entirely, such as only for an hour a day or only in an emergency.
Signs of Smartphone Addiction
When you notice a child walking into or tripping over things because they do not look up from their phones, then you can be confident that they are obsessed with it - it's a kind of smartphone addiction. Similarly, if they are inclined to spend time by themselves and have no interest in any other activities, then this is a sign that they have a problem. If their Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)
means that they are missing out on real life, then there is clearly something wrong.
Where children become engaged in spats or bullying through social media, their lives can quickly be taken over by these issues.
When smartphone use becomes excessive, it is necessary to use some techniques to prevent this from becoming a long-term problem.
Engage on their Terms
The main thing to understand about smartphone addiction is that kids nowadays probably don't realise they have it. Yet, a child is unlikely to spend much time speaking to another person when they focus on their smartphone. To counteract this, it is a good idea to try and engage the child in conversation, sticking to topics that the child is interested in. You can even start a conversation by asking them what they are doing on the phone. Don't complain saying that they're addicted though because that can just cause an argument.
When you engage them in a topic, speak on the basis that you want to learn something. Do this by asking questions so that the child can teach you about the subject. By discussing something they are passionate about, the child will be distracted from their smartphone. This may also give them a sense of achievement from being able to impart knowledge.
Similarly, you can talk to them about a subject that they do not know much about, so that they can learn from you.
Start a Competition
Bringing out the competitive streak in a child can be enough to coax them away from their smartphone addiction. A competition will give them the opportunity to demonstrate their skill or test their luck and impress others in the process.
If you have several children in your care, gather a group of them to play together. This also offers the opportunity for children to learn about listening and taking turns, which differs from the instant gratification of a phone.
Whether playing a board game or running a race, there is an opportunity for a child to flex their competitive muscles instead of being glued to their phone.
Play to their Strengths
Take their favourite pastimes into account in order to distract children from their smartphones. Start activities that you know they will enjoy and encourage them to take part instead of spending time on their phone. If you undertake the task incorrectly or half-heartedly, they may be inclined to take part to show you how it is done.
If they have a particular skill or talent, take advantage of their ability to be able to help other children during this activity. This will give them a real sense of achievement that will take them away from their phone.
Give it as a Reward
Ask that they successfully complete a task before they are allowed to spend time on their phone. For example, draw/paint a picture, eat a meal or read the chapter of a book.
Being able to spend time on their phone may be a sufficient incentive to make them focus on the task and complete it to a high standard.
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