Did you know that according to research, a child’s response to technology is similar to the way a drug addict responds to heroin/cocaine?
Excessive usage of Smartphone/TV time is, in fact, as bad as drugging a child! It’s a form of addiction that can impact a child’s future in adverse ways.
And all this happens due to something called ‘Dopamine’.
We’ll tell you exactly what Dopamine is, how it can affect your child’s life and what you can do to ensure it doesn’t get your child addicted to mobile phones.
So what is Dopamine?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps two neurons communicate. It’s released during ‘pleasurable’ or ‘rewarding’ experiences and tells your brain that you want more of something.
There are 2 ways through which this can happen.
- Healthy rewards
This occurs when a child takes an effort, develops skills, works hard and achieves their goal.
– When the child plays the guitar using their skill and gets appreciated for it, dopamine gets released.
– When the child studies well and gets their favourite ice cream as a reward, dopamine gets released.
– When the child is given a new toy for participating in a competition, dopamine gets released.
All this inspires the child to work harder the next time just to get the same feeling of appreciation or reward!
So that’s ONE way of getting dopamine…
- Stimulated rewards
In this case, the child receives dopamine by engaging in unhealthy practises again and again.
– When the child watches their favourite cartoon show, dopamine gets released.
– When the child plays a video game and wins a bonus life, dopamine gets released.
– When the child consumes drugs, alcohol or tobacco, dopamine gets released.
These are easy and simple ways to stimulate the release of dopamine. And the main reason is, these actions are easily repeatable. The child can play the video game again and again or can watch another episode of their favourite cartoon show whenever they feel like.
So here’s where the problem arises.
When dopamine makes us repeat unhealthy practices like drugs, alcohol, smoking or using screens and gadgets excessively, there’s a reason for us to be concerned.
How this can lead to addiction:
Dopamine receptors are extremely fragile. When they receive high levels of dopamine, they tend to shut down or become less receptive, which is known as downregulation.
So the child needs a LOT more of the stimulus they’re addicted to, to be satisfied by it. Meaning a child will have to use technology excessively to get that dose of dopamine and ends up getting addicted to it.
Excessive amounts of dopamine can result in aggressive and overly competitive behaviour. It can make the individual less cooperative and less empathetic.
But here’s the scary part…
While addictive substances like alcohol and tobacco have age restrictions due to their harmful impact…
Mobile phones, video games, and gadgets, which are harmful to a child’s mental and physical health, do not have age restrictions!
And what’s worse is…
Parents are unknowingly (and sometimes proudly!) feeding their children with these harmful gadgets without thinking twice!
How Is This Bad For Children?
1) Instant gratification
With technology, children never have to wait for anything. And no, that’s not a good thing!
Anything they want, they can access in an instant. And since children consume technology from a very young age, they expect results and gratification almost immediately all through their lives.
Imagine a child playing a game of football virtually. When the child scores a goal, they get a point – and the reward is instantaneous.
The trouble arises when the child expects the same in real life as well! When a child is learning to play Football in real life and doesn’t score a goal immediately, they end up feeling restless and disappointed.
With high technological advancements and fast streaming internet, children can get anything they want anytime and anywhere! Which means, they are basically trained to be impatient.
Motivational speaker, leadership guru and author Simon Sinek has something very interesting to say…
“When we raise our children in an environment where they can have absolutely anything they want, as soon as they want it, for no reason other than their wanting it, it creates a sense of entitlement or impatience in them where they believe they deserve everything that could ever want, without actually working for it.”
And what will all this result in?
3) Low self-esteem and a sense of incompetence:
Children can play video games again and again until they win and get that dose of self-esteem. They are put in a bubble where they feel successful and can get anything they wish for. Unfortunately, this is not the case in real-life and their coping mechanisms get hit.
Which leads to…
4) Poor social skills:
This also eventually results in the inability of our children to have loving and caring relationships with friends and co-workers and they forget to establish bonds with people.
They begin viewing most relationships as superficial.
But you may be thinking…
“Mobile phones are the easiest solution to engage my child!”
“What if I’m driving and I need my son to be busy?”
“I need them to sit in one place when I’m making dinner or working on my weekly presentation”
“My child won’t take a bite of lunch if I don’t give her a smartphone to play with”
We get it!
In today’s age of nuclear families and the digital era, it isn’t feasible – neither is it practical to NOT ever give your child the smartphone.
At the same time, it isn’t impossible to engage your child without smartphones 🙂
So what now?
How can you engage your child without mobile phones?
Well, if you really want to engage your child in a healthy manner, you can! It’s really not that difficult – you and I were brought up that way!
This is where other engaging activities come in. Engage your child with something that’s constructive and entertaining! This should be something they want to do on their own, not something they’re forced into doing.
Giving your child an alternative option and tool such as this can help them with getting over their technological addiction while improving their mental performance.
What today’s children need is a way in which they can receive gratification from modes that are non-technological.
We need to find a way to keep children engaged in activities of various kinds that help in their cognitive development rather than something that hinders it.
- Activities more entertaining than TV/Smartphones
The easiest would be – try an activity box! Activity boxes like Flintobox are designed to engage children meaningfully and without the use of smartphones / TV.
The boxes are packed with highly educational and interesting games, puzzles and books to teach kids concepts over a period of time. For more info on Flintobox activities, click here >
- Activities more entertaining than TV/Smartphones
- Encourage activities in form of outdoor play
You can take a look at 20 awesome outdoor games here >
- Encourage reading
Just make sure you’re giving the child something they would actually be interested in. Here are some stories to read for your child >
- Does your child have a creative inclination towards something?
Find out and find an outlet for it. Be it art, craft, singing, dancing, or even science, just make sure they can express and create freely, in any way they like.Take a look at some unique hobby ideas for children here >
- Spend time with them!
This is very important for you to form a bond with them so they have the ability to be emotionally expressive. Here are some fun things to do to spend quality time with your li’l one >
- LISTEN to them.
Don’t order them around and impose strict time constrictions on work and play, but just reason out with them by explaining the pros and cons of doing something.
- Encourage learning through new and varying methods.
It can be through rhymes, games, or craft activities, but when you’re trying to get them to learn, refrain from using classroom tactics. Use entertaining play tactics instead.
It’s high time that we, as adults, step up to make a change in the upcoming generations so they’re better suited for surviving the real world and have a positive cognitive development. So, let’s work on, quite literally, building the future together.