Self Help Manual to address Digital Addiction Conundrums in Kids

A working day in my life is full of unending, mind-numbing work. As a Medical Affairs doctor working in a Healthcare and Biopharma Consulting firm, focussing on the dual role of Clinical Research and Marketing unintentionally catapults mundane tasks into a work of herculean proportions.

Like most of busy bees like us, ending a hectic day by spending quality time in the company and warmth of our family, is a perfect talisman to soothe our frayed nerves. But, not in my case, until recently.

A lot has been written about the perils of connected world brought about by the mushrooming of smartphones in pandemic proportions. But let me share with you the digital roller coaster ride that I have personally experienced with my family in the recent past.

On most of the days, when I am welcomed home in the late evening hours, my six-year-old son hugs me with a loud scream of ecstatic joy. In fact, he is the first one to impatiently wait to watch me enter my home. Unbeknownst, with a smile and glint in his eyes, he frantically searches for my pockets. It is not for Chocolates or for any surprises, but sadly, for my smartphone.

He continues to do so, even now, but, with a sense of belonging, discipline and purpose. However, a lot of persistent and conscious effort was required in bringing about this paradigm shift.

Let me take you to the genesis of this addiction. Almost 2 years ago, a teenager distant maternal cousin of my son stayed with us for a fortnight. It was he who introduced him into the digital world with some addictive games. But, that was enough for this smart quick learner. He knew about Google play store, steps to install a game and bingo… playing the installed games was like a cakewalk for him.

The curiosity then moved to watching videos and cartoons on YouTube. On an average, he spent around 4-5 hrs staring at the screen, and that was almost uninterrupted. As a doctor, I knew this was addiction, in the worst form. I seriously had to take some measures and nip the problem in its bud.

However, nothing convinced my son to stop his addiction. As a doting father, I finally decided to take up this addiction monster head on. Here are the details adopted by me, for making my son gently wean away from the problem. I call them 3 R’s to overcome the digital mental pollution:

  1. Reduce
  • Start talking to your child about the problem during times when they are very open to advice.
  • Tell them that you are keeping a count on the time spent with smartphones.
  • Gradually reduce the duration of time spent and reward them appropriately.
  1. Refuse
  • Inform your child on your unwillingness to give the smartphone during bedtime/late evening and first thing in the morning.
  • Anything in between these time slots is fine, if the total time spent is for a maximum of 1-hour duration.
  1. Rekindle relationship 
  • When the first two tips are applied successfully, please make way for satiating the curiosity quotients of your kids by making them busy enough on things that truly matter.

In the end, it’s just not about time well spent, but Quality time well invested.

Well, that was about my son. But, the digital monster is rearing its head on the other end of the family spectrum, i.e. on my elderly mother. Thankfully, she takes great pride in owning a basic feature phone for its battery life and sturdy qualities. We subtly massage her ego, as it is a hidden conspiracy by the rest of us, to not to provide a smartphone to my mother, lest, she too joins the bandwagon of smartphone addicts and avoid doing the daily chores at home.

However, I am sure that very soon the pressure from her community peers will entice her to purchase a smartphone and modify her into a social media fanatic much to our discomfort.

But, no worries. I have the perfect remedy now. Keeping my fingers crossed if the solution is age agnostic. If yes, then it’s time to file for a patent.

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