Recognizing Screen Addiction: 5 Red Flags to Watch Out For

When it comes to your child’s screen time, the notion of addiction can be daunting, as it can potentially cause harm. To help you identify the warning signs, parenting experts and The American Academy of Pediatrics have highlighted five crucial indicators to keep in mind.

Modern parents are increasingly worried not only about the duration of their children’s screen use but also about the challenges of tearing them away from screens. While some experts debate whether digital and media consumption constitutes an addiction, many parents find the term useful in describing their child’s behavior.

Initially, parents were informed that their kids could enhance their reading and math skills more effectively with the assistance of devices like iPads. Consequently, numerous parents wholeheartedly endorsed and promoted the usage of such gadgets. However, these claims lacked credible evidence to support them.

In truth, nothing can substitute the interaction between parent and child and the benefits of traditional outdoor playtime.


It’s not uncommon for parents to want to limit their children’s screen time, and there may be valid reasons for doing so. A recent study published in January 2020 suggests that young children who spend three or more hours per day on electronic devices may have a lower quality of life.

According to a University of Michigan study, children under two years old are spending twice as much time on screens as they did 20 years ago. The average daily screen time for this age group in 2014 was 3.05 hours, which is more than double the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended amount.

Warning Signs of Screen Addiction


The notion of screen addiction is frightening, especially since it may pose a threat to your child’s well-being. Here are five indicators to keep in mind:

1. Losing Interest In Other Activities

If your child prefers watching videos on YouTube to engaging in outdoor activities or sports, it could be a warning sign to watch out for.

2. Using Screens As A Mood-Booster

If your child relies on a screen for a “boost” of joy or uses it as a source of comfort when feeling down, it may be a sign of excessive dependence.

3. They Are Sneaky About Their Usage

If you have caught your child using their phones or electronic devices after bedtime or when they should be completing homework or chores, it may indicate an unhealthy attachment to screens.

4. Screens Are Interfering With Relationships

Relationships, whether familial, friendly, or romantic, should not revolve around screens, especially if the people involved are of an older age. Over-reliance on screens could lead to conflicts at home or disrupt social interactions with friends.

For instance, excessive cellphone usage can hamper the quality of time spent with friends.

5. They Experience Withdrawal

Suppose you find yourself constantly engaged in a frustrating battle to confiscate your child’s phone, video games, iPad, or similar devices. In that case, it is possible that your child is experiencing withdrawal symptoms.


How to Handle Screen Addictions

Suppose you suspect your child is spending excessive time on screens or exhibiting several of the aforementioned signs. In that case, it is advisable to assess how you can address their dependency. The following are some recommended strategies that you can consider adopting to help reduce their screen time:


Cut Down On Your Screen Time

Set a good example for your children, regardless of their age. They are likely to follow suit if they see you constantly glued to your phone, computer, or TV. Try to limit your personal screen time around your kids and encourage family screen time by watching or playing together.

Lent suggests creating a list of daily expectations for your child, with adjustments based on their age. If your child is resistant to these expectations, discuss the issue of screen addiction and explain that participating in the family is the bare minimum requirement. Keep an open mind and consider offering weekend rewards for adhering to the new schedule.

Make A Family Media Use Plan

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that media usage should align with your family’s values and parenting style. When utilized thoughtfully and appropriately, media can enhance daily life. However, when used carelessly or without consideration, media can replace crucial activities like face-to-face communication, family bonding, outdoor recreation, exercise, relaxation without screens, and adequate sleep.

Connect With Other Parents

As part of her “I Love My Toddler, But” series on her YouTube channel, Whitney Port, a reality TV personality and mother, openly shared the challenges she and her husband have faced with their son.

Fortunately, she was not alone in her desire to be more transparent about her child’s interaction with screens and TV. Viewers responded by leaving positive and supportive comments, sharing their own experiences: “We’re all facing similar difficulties and striving to strike the perfect balance. You’re both doing a great job.” If you’re not comfortable connecting online, consider seeking advice and insights from fellow parents in person.

Hold Off On Introducing Screens

If your child is still young and has not yet been exposed to screens, it is best to maintain this status quo. In addition, lent advised that you communicate this boundary to your family and friends, letting them know that it is not acceptable to gift video games or similar devices. Again, it’s crucial to establish this expectation early on.