iPad Addiction or a 4 year old who doesn’t like ‘No’?

I joined Will Faulkner on his daily show on Midlands 103FM today to discuss the story of a child in Britain, a 4 year old, who has been treated by the eminent psychiatrist Dr Richard Graham, an expert on technology addiction. I first became aware of Dr Graham’s work in 2009,  after Sweden’s Youth Care Foundation [Stiftelsen Ungdomsvård] described World of Warcraft as “more addictive than crack cocaine”. Dr Graham called on Blizzard Entertainment, the company that makes World of Warcraft, to waive or discount the costs associated with joining the game to facilitate a proposal whereby therapists would communicate with effected or at risk-players via the player’s familiar fantasy world; and familiar it certainly was to some gamers, the story of a Swedish teenager who collapsed in November 2008 having played for 20 or more hours made global headlines.

“‘With kids, gaming is an obvious issue. But overall, technology use could be a potential problem”

— Mike Kyrios, Brain and Psychological Sciences Research Centre : Sydney Morning Herald.
Dr Graham’s innovations in clinical psychiatry are encouraging. For some time we spoke about the contribution that technology was making to medicine, but the quid pro quo is now becoming apparent. With smart-phone use likely to move to 90% and tablet use mushrooming every time I look up the IDC numbers illness, conditions that we hadn’t imagined are afflicting users, young and old.

Mary Aiken, Cyberpsychologist and Research Fellow at the RCSI has written and spoken extensively about the effect of Social Media on young people. I imagine soon we will see extensive research on carpel tunnel and RSI injuries sustained because of over-use of tablets – we’ve taken the tablet to our heart, and our sofa and our bodies have yet to tell us how well designed we are for long-term use. The effects, short and long term of new technology on our vision and sleep patterns have yet to be ascertained with certainty and the long term effect on cognitive function is also still being debated, perhaps there’s even a genetic angle to Internet Addiction.

I’ve read some experts who ask the question if those suffering have a pre-disposition to addiction of any sort? An interesting point and I believe young people’s exposure to technology is the first opportunity any pre-dispositions may have to present.

It’s difficult to limit the time or usage that children use their technology for. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommends parents limit children’s screen time  two hours or less, per day.  But as WIll Faulkner asked me today, how do we do that with tablets in use in Education, apart from any personal devices they have themselves? As a parent you can exercise control; it appears to have become increasingly unpopular to say no to children these days, but responsible parenting remains the single best tool in combatting overuse of technology, and mitigating its effects. There is app based help you can use like Game Time Limit for Parents on iOS or KIDO’Z on Android which allow you to set time and content limits, but the first step is common sense – if there charger never seems to be out of the wall-socket, there’s a clue that you need to get to grips with this before it’s time to call the doctor.

Some advice from Dr Richard Graham as published in the useful Vodafone publication, ‘Too Much of A Good Thing’.

Find out how long the young person spends online.
Ask yourself, is the time they spend online growing rapidly? Is it interfering with ordinary life?
Organise activities and opportunities to balance out time in front of a screen – don’t let online time mushroom.
Get support from partners and other family members when trying to reduce online time.
Organise weekends and holidays to allow for more offline activities.

External links & references

  1. How to spot a screenager : Dr Richard Graham
  2. Too much of a good thingg : PDF 783kb
  3. World of Warcraft is as addictive as cocaine: 2009
  4. ‘Internet addiction’ to be classified as mental illness : rt.com
  5. Gray matter abnormalities in Internet addiction
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