5 Signs Your Child May Be Addicted to Technology

Should I be concerned about my child’s screen time?

This is a question I hear frequently. The COVID pandemic caused a significant increase in the amount of time our children spend online each day, and many parents have concerns about their child’s technology use.  In today’s world, it would be nearly impossible to avoid screens entirely (and most people would not want to!), but when is it too much?  At what point should we start to worry about the effects of those hours our kids spend online?

There is No Escaping Technology

Between television, YouTube videos, games like Minecraft and Roblox, virtual communication platforms like Discord, and social media apps like Instagram and TikTok, kids are completely saturated with virtual media.  Even when parents are able to help kids abstain from certain types of technology, the enmeshment of tech into schools, paired with social pressures, makes limiting tech an extremely challenging task.

You Are Not Wrong to Be Afraid

Research on the effects of technology use on the developing brain is not lacking.  There are numerous studies that have returned potentially problematic, even downright concerning results.  A 2019 study that looked at brain scans of preschoolers found that children who used screens longer than the recommended (1 hour per day) had lower levels of development in their white matter – a key area in the development of language, literacy, and cognitive skills.

View that study here.

Additionally, the CDC found that the suicide rate for kids ages 10-14 doubled from 2007-2014 which happened to be the same time that social media use skyrocketed.

But how can parents know how much screen time is appropriate and when to be concerned?

5 Warning Signs that Your Child May be Addicted to Technology

  1. School work is suffering. This one can be tricky to recognize due to the overwhelming challenges the pandemic brought to school aged kids during the most recent academic year.  Take notice if your child’s change in academic performance directly coincides with increased tech use.
  2. Loss of interest in other activities.  If your child once loved playing soccer or creating art, but has lost interest and replaced that passion with a desire for screen time, some intervention may be necessary.
  3. Uncharacteristic aggression when interrupted from screen time. If you notice your child snapping, yelling, or showing uncharacteristic signs of anger when they are interrupted or asked to conclude their tech use, pay attention.
  4. Choosing to spend time online over spending time with friends or family. If your child is turning down social invitations in favor of spending more time online, there may be cause for concern.
  5. Neglecting basic needs or personal hygiene.  If you notice your child failing to care for their own basic needs (getting less sleep, skipping meals), or abandoning personal hygiene such as showering and brushing their teeth due to a preoccupation with screen time, it might be time to take action.

I think my child may be addicted to technology- what do I do now?

The good news is that technology addiction is treatable!  Children’s brains are malleable and interrupting troublesome habits now can help your child to strengthen new neural connections.  Early intervention can set a foundation that will help children learns skills to balance technology use in the future.

There are many strategies to treat mild to severe technology addiction in children and teens.  The first step would be to have a trained therapist assess your child for technology addiction. The National Institute for Digital Health and Wellness has a list of local providers trained to help your child manage technology issues.  There you can also find helpful articles on technology use and its effects on the developing brain.

If you are concerned, or unsure if your child may be struggling to balance their relationship with screens, ask a professional!  These times are difficult to navigate, and you are not alone.  There is plenty of support out there to help you and your child learn skills to manage technology use.

Want to learn more?

“Glow Kids” by Nicholas Kardaras is a great place to start to learn about the effects of technology on kids today.

“Reset Your Child’s Brain” by Victoria L. Dunkley MD has some wonderful guidance on at home interventions for tech addiction


From Perfect to Good Enough Parenting

Male parent with kids surrounded by children's toys

Are you still trying to be that “perfect” parent?

On the reflection of my own journey of parenting, I have come to realize that there is nothing like parenthood, from the moment I realized that I was about to become a parent, to seeing my child grow up every day. I began my parenting journey like most of us do – knowing nothing, making numerous mistakes and then trying to learn everything to become the “perfect” parent.

A new path of parenting

If you are someone like me, I would like you to join me in re-discovering a new path of parenting. There is no “perfect” parent, there is “good enough” parent.  Let’s face it, parenting is not an easy task, we are facing new challenges every day. Sometimes it feels like we never get a break from all the demands and unexpected obstacles as parents. Many of us strive to be the perfect parent, but the reality is that we are chasing something that is not attainable. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. When we expect ourselves to be perfect, we expect our children to be perfect as well, which is putting unrealistic expectations on them. What is more realistic is to be a parent who is good enough.

Good enough parents

Good enough parents love their kids, take care of their kids and try their best. Good enough parents have the courage to accept their own flaws and see mistakes as a good opportunity to learn. Good enough parents will not set unrealistic expectations for their children or themselves. Good enough parents accept their children for who they are. Both you and your children are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just the way you are, and you can be imperfect! What your children will learn from you is that that they do not need to be perfect to be loved. 

Both you and your children are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just the way you are, and you can be imperfect!

You are doing better than you think you are

I encourage you to give yourself a pat on your back and let yourself know that you are doing a good job. At least as good as it can be! Parenting is not only a full-time job; it is a life-time job.  Your child is learning from you every day as much as you are learning from them.  You are doing better than you think you are. I have made countless mistakes along the way, and of course I still think about all the “should have’s” and “could have’s”. At the end of the day, I came to realize that there is no other “job” that is as rewarding as this one. Being a parent has changed me into someone I never thought I could be. Every day, I am learning something new from my child.

Appreciate yourself and what you are doing

I hope you would appreciate who you are, what you do, and how much you are doing for your kids. You do not need to be the “perfect” parent as you are already perfect for your kids just the way you are.

Lastly, I want to offer you these Positive Affirmations for you to remind yourself how great you are:

  • I am a great parent
  • I love my children no matter what 
  • I am doing the best I can
  • I am learning and growing with my children
  • I am not afraid to make mistakes 
  • I am the best parent for my children 
  • I and my children are worthy
  • I accept my children and myself the way we are
  • My love and connection help my children above all else 
  • I believe in myself and my children 

Please spread the love and offer these positive affirmations to other parents so that we can support each other on this amazing journey.

As a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator, I love working with parents and families and embarking on the positive discipline journey together. If you are a parent who is interested in taking this journey with me, please feel free to reach out to me. In addition, you can also check out Positive Discipline workshops that Austin Family Counseling offers for parents: https://austinfamilycounseling.com/workshops-groups/.

Written by: Catherine Mok, M.A., LMSW Supervised by Melissa Haney, LCSW-S 

Meet Catherine!


How to Talk to Your Kids about Race and Racism

child at protest

 
There might be a misconception that children are too young to learn about race. However, it is usually adults who feel uncomfortable talking about racial differences with their child because it may “put ideas in their heads.” Or other adults may feel that children cannot see or understand race because they are so young, which is why conversations about race and racism go unexplored. 

  • Children learn most of their information through direct teachings and modeling from their parents, which is why it is important that parents have meaningful conversations with their children about these issues. 
  • There is an overwhelming amount of research showing that children are not only able to recognize race during infancy, but they also develop racial biases and prejudices between the ages of three and five. 
  • Children are not colorblind but rather are blank canvases. They cannot develop biases and prejudices about race until they are specifically taught to do so. 

So what can parents do to start open and honest conversations about race with their children? 

Parents, be aware of your own biases 

The first step parents can take is to understand their own implicit and explicit biases. Explore how these inclinations can mislead or misdirect your children’s perceptions of difference, race, and diversity. Instead of waiting for others to teach you, take it up on yourself to listen, learn, and ask questions about how your long-held beliefs may be creating barriers and influencing judgment. 
Some reflective questions to ask yourself: How do I navigate race ? How do I discuss race in front of my family ? How do I own up to my mistakes of racism ? 

Use books 

Books are a collaborative and educational resource for you and your child to have direct conversations about race. Stories connect the readers to the information being told, whether it may be about how we celebrate different holidays, honor people of color, or cherish moments in history. They can also be stepping stones to ask thought provoking questions like: What was the story was about ?  How were the subjects in the story treated ? Were there themes of discrimination, prejudice, or privilege present ? How does this story relate to my own understanding of race ? Do not underestimate children and their ability to understand and absorb these complex and important issues. 

Recommended Books: 

  • All the Colors We are (Age 3-6)
  • Don’t Touch my Hair (Age 4-7)
  • Mixed (Age 4-8)
  • Let’s Talk about Race (Age 4-8)
  • The Proudest Blue (Age 4-8)
  • New Kid (Age 8-12)
  • Young Water Protectors (Age 9-12) 

Teach your child to own up to their mistakes 

Inevitably, your child will say or do something explicitly or implicitly racist and in these moments you can teach your child a valuable lesson about responsibility. This can equip them with the tools to learn and understand the harm that was done and what they can do to repair it. There may be an inclination for your child to defend, excuse, or blame others for these mistakes; however, this is an opportunity to teach your child how they can repair ruptures using remorse and self-responsibility. 

Ask your child how they feel – directly 

Having direct heart to heart conversations about how your child perceives race and racism can create dialogues about what they are seeing, thinking, and believing. Over time, these conversations will evoke trust, acceptance, and understanding between you and your child. By no means is navigating race and racism easy. However, talking openly with your child and giving them a space they can be curious, will reinforce the belief that they can come to their parents to process and explore these difficult topics. 

Written by: Geetha Pokala, LPC-Associate, Supervised by Kirby Schroeder LPC-S, LMFT-S

Meet Geetha!


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