PARENTS

Is Your Child An IPad Addict?

14/08/2014 16:55 | Updated 22 May 2015

Little girl and a tablet

Tablets and phones could be having a significant impact of the mental health of children.

Consultant Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr Richard Graham and Clinical Psychologist Dr Jay Watts say that technology addiction can affect a child's behaviour and sleeping patterns.

In an interview with MailOnline, they highlighted the five signs to look out for if you think your child may be hooked. They also stressed the importance of taking a 'digital detox' to remedy their obsession.

"When people feel an uncomfortable sense of withdrawal when not online, we know that the relationship with technology is not being managed properly," said Dr Graham from the Capio Nightingale Hospital, a mental health hospital based in central London.

"When electronic devices start to have more influence over behaviour than anyone else or anything else, when children become very distressed when technology is removed from them, that is the moment when really you need to start changing things."

In effect, technology gives children a 'hit', similar to a drug user. This unhealthy dependence doesn't just mean the child becomes agitated when told they can't use technology.

Dr Graham also explains that the addiction may manifest itself in other behaviours. It can impact a child's sleep, interfere with meal times and eating habits and make children act up during play time.

The warning signs are:

• A lack of interest in other activities

• Constantly talking about or getting distracted by technology

• Mood swings and argumentative behaviour

• Withdrawal symptoms, such as becoming agitated when deprived of technology

• Increase in lying or a rise in devious behaviour

"It is important to restrict the time children spend using technology to help prevent forming an unhealthy dependence," said Dr Graham.

"Techniques include ensuring prolonged periods where children are focused on the 'real world' and play time with other children.

"Establishing a maximum daily time allowance can be a good place to start. It is also about making sure adults leave their phones off or on silent during meal times and when with friends and family as children learn behaviour from their parents.

"It is especially important for sleep hygiene that iPads and iPhones are not used before bed time and that they are kept in a different room overnight to stop children from using the devices straight before, during and after sleep."

He added: "We recommend 72 hours for a digital detox. Initially they will show distress and signs of withdrawal, much like any addict would feel.

"The challenge starts when we reintroduce technology back into their lives in a controlled manner, they need a balance of activities to help children including an increase of physical activity."

The Capio Nightingale Hospital additionally has an online test that anyone can take that assesses the extent of a person's relationship with technology.

Dr Graham advises taking this test as an important first step in ascertaining whether technology use is abnormal or problematic.

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