‘Digital Heroin’: How Screens Are Affecting Kids And How You Can Manage It

Little african american girl using a tablet pc, isolated on white background

American playwright Paddy Chayevsky once said that television is the menace that everyone loves to hate but can’t seem to live without. The supposed danger of digital media to children has been making headlines ever since our society started sinking into our screens more than we do anything else. iPads, smartphones, televisions and Xboxes have become a form of a digital heroin that children cannot do without and it’s grown to the point where there lies the great potential for our children to become addicted to screens in the same way other people get addicted to drugs. Also, some of the tech companies are in on it, feeding your addiction – how tech companies are programming your smartphone apps to influence your decisions.

We’ve seen the immense difference between the children raised up in this society as compared to those raised in the 1980’s. Kids under the age of 6 watch an average of up to 8 hours a day with various digital media while teenagers spend 11 hours in front of either a TV screen, an Xbox or their laptops and phones.

Some of the negative effects of this growing menace include:

  • They carry a higher risk of childhood obesity.
  • Are more likely to engage in risky behaviour.
  • Have less energy and are more prone to cholesterol related diseases due to the number of hours spent sitting and snacking on unhealthy food and drinks.
  • Are more exposed to more commercials and more risky behaviours. This leads to a rise in displaying aggressive and sexual behaviour because of what they are exposed to.

I was reading this article yesterday by the New York Post called It’s ‘digital heroin’: How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies. This article was shocking because apparently now kids are getting addicted to gadgets and its effects are equal to addiction to heroin.  How do you keep your child’s tech usage at a healthy level – and how do you deal with a child who’s already a ‘digital heroin’ addict?

Be the parent and stand your ground

We’ve all seen a case of a child at the supermarket or in public who talks back at their parent or down right refuses to listen to what their guardians say. Some kids today have become intolerant to their parents’ instructions, mostly because they try and imitate what other children do on TV. But as a parent, you need to stand your ground. It is your job to encourage healthy behaviours and limit unhealthy ones. Even if your child might get angry with your decision, you have to make that tough choice and always go a step further and explain why you made that choice. They may not like it, but down the line, they’ll realize that it was for their own good.

Set the right example

It doesn’t make sense to take away your child’s gadget (s) while you display the five that you have. Yes you are the parent and you have the right because it’s your house and your money that bought those devices, but your children always gravitate around what their parents do.


Parents drifting away from their children because of technology. Image from http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/04/21/304196338/for-the-childrens-sake-put-down-that-smartphone

Encourage other activities

Instead of restricting your child’s time to the devices available in the house and leaving them with no other activities to occupy their time, fill their schedule with healthier options. Provide useful and relatable books to read, art supplies, sports equipment, and musical instruments or even pay for an extra class they can attend. This can either be in another language or in developing an extra skill.

Take the time to know your children more

Most of the time, children might be getting in activities or behaviours that may be dangerous for them without them realizing. Cyber bullying is on the rise and most children don’t realize it until it’s too late. It won’t hurt to become involved in their lives instead of leaving them to the mercy of the internet to get some of the answers they may be looking for. This doesn’t mean that you pry, especially for teenagers. Teens tend to isolate themselves more if you start asking about the friends they hang out with.

Listen to them

Are you paying attention to your kids? Most children won’t come up and tell you that they are being bullied in school or that they have just started their periods. They’ll bury themselves in their devices. Sometimes they’ll try and tell you what they’re going through in their own language and we might be too busy or occupied with our own struggles that they end up feeling abandoned or not special enough. They will try and approach you in their own way, be prepared to listen to them and help them in whatever they’re going through so that their screens won’t steal them from you again.

Put the devices down

Whether it’s for a day or for a couple of hours or while you’re having supper together; identify and enforce appropriate on/off times for your family to have or not have their device with them. This will not only instil a sense of discipline in them, it will also help to implement a healthy face-to-face interaction and builds upon important social skills that are often lost behind screens.

Take them for trips

Kenya is a magical land with so many sites to visit, instead of staying cooped up in the house for the weekends or on holidays, look for affordable places you can take your family. Let them enjoy the outdoors, stretch, exercise and learn to appreciate nature more. You might be surprised if one of them discovers their passions, for example in photography during one of your escapades.

It will also help you to bond more as a family. Ditch the gadgets, breathe the fresh air and enjoy the time that you’ll spend together.

Want to learn how to unplug both yourself and your kids? Check out Technology and Social Media: Time to unplug.

Featured image via Parade.com.

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I am an idealist, an emotional dreamer. A goddess encapsulated in a densely melanated work of art. On normal days, I am an environmental enthusiast, PR practitioner, Events organizer, Coffee addict, Poetry lover. I also sometimes jot down my thoughts at toashtraysandheartbreaks.wordpress.com