Parents who give their young children too much access to digital technology tools like the iPad run the risk of their kids developing an addiction to the gadgets, The Daily Telegraph reports. Patients as young as 4 are now being treated for compulsive behaviors associated; one set of parents reported that their daughter would get upset and could not be comforted when she was away from her tablet.
According to Dr. Richard Graham, who started UK’s first technology addiction program three years ago, that 4-year-old is by no means unique and there are many families going through the same thing with their children. Graham is the one who’s treating the child and he said that the symptoms as described by her mother couldn’t be more textbook.
Graham pointed out that the withdrawals symptoms shown by technology addicts mirror those of people with chemical and alcohol dependencies very closely when the target of their addiction – in this case a tablet like an iPad – is taken away.
He warned that the condition prevented young people from forming normal social relationships, leaving them drained by the constant interaction.
“Children have access to the internet almost from birth now,” he told the Sunday Mirror.
“They see their parents playing on their mobile devices and they want to play too. It’s difficult, because having a device can also be very useful in terms of having a reward, having a pacifier. But if you don’t get the balance right it can be very dangerous.
“They can’t cope and become addicted, reacting with tantrums and uncontrollable behaviour when they are taken away. Then as they grow older, the problem only gets worse. Even the most shy kids, when they hit their teens, suddenly want to become sociable and popular.”
Graham expressed concern that manufacturers weren’t thinking of this kind of potential harm when they develop and market pruducsts that encourage children to use iPads and other tablets more rather than less — specifically, he addressed products like child-proof tablet cases and the “iPotties.”
Getting their kids off tech could be an expensive proposition. Parents who want to take advantage of Graham’s “digital detox” program, which runs for 28 weeks, will be out more than £16,000.
Psychiatrists estimate that the number of people who have become digitally dependent has risen by 30 per cent over the past three years. A survey last week revealed that more than half of parents allowed their babies to play with their phone or tablet device.
One in seven of more than 1,000 parents questioned by babies.co.ukwebsite admitted that they let them use the gadgets for four or more hours a day.