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Screen Addiction - When too much is never enough

Screen use for Children has exploded over the last decade and with 94% of high school aged children in Australia owning a mobile is only going to get worse.

When does screen use become screen addiction?

Screen use can be described as screen addiction when the use of screen time becomes so compulsive that it leads to impaired daily function in terms of productivity, social interactions and relationships, physical health and emotional well-being.

Addiction can be identified in 3 main behaviors:

1. Cravings - You may start to notice your child or teen starts to become preoccupied with wanting to spend more and more time on the screen rather than spending time doing what they used to love like sport, spending time with friends, playing on the trampoline.

2. Tolerance - Tolerance is when something that used to satisfy you no longer satisfies your needs any longer. For an example - Your child used to play his computer games for around 1 hour before they moved onto a different activity. Now the child plays the device for 3 hours and is upset when you ask them to turn it off. Your child has grown a tolerance to the screen time, their brain is no longer satisfied with the hour, and craves more time to reach the same level of satisfaction.

3. Withdrawal - Agitation, anger, depression or a stark change in mood when the screen device is taken away or switched off on the child. These are all withdrawal symptoms of someone developing an addiction. The feelings would soon be abated when the device is switched back on, or given back to the child. Shortly after the feeling of withdrawals, the craving feeling will soon replace them, and thus, starts the cycle of addiction in your child.

What can you do as a parent?

If you don't know how to manage your child's screen time....don't despair. Many many parents report not knowing how to manage their kids screen time, the main reason being they don't understand the technology themselves.

Here are some tips to start:

1. Limit Screen Time - In today's modern digital age technology is an important part of a child's development, so banning screen time would be detrimental. Evidence suggests keeping screen time limited to approximately 2 hours per day. Your child will likely need screen time for school work, and this will increase as they get older and move into secondary school. You can limit the amount of time the child uses the device for recreational use.

2. Encourage alternative activities - It may sound obvious but encouraging your child to play outdoors, visit a friends house or read a book is a great way for them to replace screen time with something positive. Try to join them on the activity to show support.

3. Lead by example - Simple.....Children model their own behavior on their parents. So if you are constantly on your device they will see this as acceptable. Try setting some house rules for everyone to follow.....You never know you may find a new hobby for yourself along the way or at least gain some valuable time in your day.

4. Remove devices from the bedroom - Removing the devices from the bedroom will help the child to remove temptation of picking up the device and checking for text messages, alerts, social media posts or YouTube. These distractions and the screens blue-wavelength light are often associated with poor sleep.

5. Mobile free meal times - We have all done this. To enjoy your own meal time you give your child a device to distract them long enough for you to enjoy your meal and glass of chardonnay. In reality by providing the device you are encouraging them to use the device as a distraction from conversation and dealing with is often the one time where a family are all together in one place at one time so remove the distraction and enjoy some family time.

Evidence shows that addiction increases proneness to anxiety and depression, and thus, early intervention is key.

If you are unable to break the cycle of screen addiction speak to your health care professional or give us a call on 02 8545 0137 or email us at

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