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We Asked Top Experts: How Do You 'Detoxify' A Gadget-Addicted Child
  • If you can remove that gadget out of your child’s hand without a scream or a wail, then good for you. However, if taking a device away has turned into a big drama event each time, then consider this a red flag that your child just might be spending time on his gadget more than he should.

    Could the time a child spends on his gadget amount to addiction? SmartParenting.com.ph and Nido wanted to discuss possible red flags on gadget use with parents. So for the next Smart Parenting Masterclass Toddler Expertips webinar, both brands decided on the theme titled “Parenting in the Digital World.” Nido invited top experts to discuss the topic: developmental and behavioral pediatrician Francis Dimalanta, M.D., and educator Tina Zamora of Nest School of Child Development

    Dr. Dimalanta and Zamora say that addiction to gadgets is no different from addiction to alcohol and smoking.

    “They release the same kind of hormones,” says Zamora.“When you talk to a top game designer, he will not give a gadget to his child because he knows it is addicting,” she adds.

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    Red flags of screen dependency

    According to Dr. Dimalanta, one of the early signs of screen dependency is when he doesn’t engage with the people around him, or he wants to be left on his own. “Ayaw sumama [if may pupuntahan kayo], mainitin and ulo kasi kulang sa tulog, ayaw kumain (pag tinawag],” he says.

    Another sign: A parent cannot pacify her child anymore when the gadget is taken away, according to Dr. Dimalanata. He narrates how one father told him about a son who freaked out and went looking for an object to hurt his dad because his gadget was taken away from him.


    “How did it come to that?” Dimalanta asks, adding that gadget control should never reach such an extreme point.

    In her experience as an educator, Zamora says that the social skills of a child who is not exposed to gadgets are different. “They are more articulate, they socialize more, they talk to adults and their peers more.”

    In contrast, kids who spend more time on their gadgets may tend to become socially awkward, says Dr. Dimalanta. “Di marunong makirelate. I had [a boy] who asked what to do to let a girl know that he liked her. We aren’t taught these social skills. We learn it. Pero dahil nandun na yung gadget...di sila marunong mag-empathize.”

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    How to ‘detoxify’ a gadget-addicted child

    The experts are optimistic that even teenagers who are hooked to gadgets have hope. It’s just a matter of will and tough love on the parents’ part.

    1. Set an hour where everyone is unplugged.

    “Kahit walang homework, you should have a window during the day when everyone is unplugged,” says Zamora. She adds that unplugging applies to all members of the household including helpers who sometimes text while watching the child.

    2. Take the gadget away.

    “You are in charge. You pay the WiFi. You buy the gadgets,” Dr. Dimalanta tells parents. “They say you have to only do it for 21 days, and it becomes a habit. Even if teenager pa yan, pwede pa yan. It’s only difficult because we allowed it to happen,” he adds.

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    Zamora, for her part, compares it to weaning from the bottle. “It’s only going to hurt for a couple of days. Tiisin niyo na,” she tells parents and guardians.

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    3. See an expert.

    When things have gotten out of hand, like when a child cannot be pacified anymore when the gadget is taken away from him, it might be time to see an expert. In cases where excessive use is already affecting the child’s development in certain areas like speech and ability to focus, it might be wise to visit a developmental and behavioral pediatrician.

    “I think deep inside parents already know that they are not supposed to be giving gadgets [to toddlers] but they do it because its an easier way of parenting. But we’re here to tell you of the long term effects of you doing that,” says Zamora.

    “Without gadgets, you will always think of [other things] to introduce to your child -- reading, sports, board games, music, art, etc. You have to give them that option.”

    Watch the Smart Parenting Masterclass Toddler Expertips co-presented by Nido below.

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