Trying to separate kids from their smartphones and tablets is a challenging ordeal for many parents in this day and age.
Children who are unable to tear themselves from their mobile devices may have fallen victim to gadget dependency, a very real problem for anyone growing up in this technology-dependent age. Interestingly, researchers have suggested that mobile gaming apps could be the solution to internet addiction in children – but in what way?
Is my child overdependent on his screens?
Before we delve into the solution for internet addiction and excessive screen time, ask yourself the above question.
To help you answer this, here are some of the other red flags should might want to pay attention to:
Losing interest in other device-free activities
Constantly seeking out screen time over everything else
Ignoring social interactions and unresponsive when using devices
Showing signs of irritability, restlessness and anxiety when without devices
Poor academic performance as a result of spending disproportionate amounts of time online instead of studying
Identifying device dependency early is key. The younger the child is, the more time we have to correct these behaviours and the higher the likelihood of kicking their addiction.
Device dependency can harm your child’s health
In this day and age, we are seeing screen time increasingly replace outdoor playtime. This is extremely worrying as play is an integral part of childhood development! Kids miss out on opportunities to pick up social skills, learn creative expression and engage in physical activities if they don’t play.
Compulsive device usage robs children of real-world experiences and interferes with healthy social and psychological development. Moreover, young children who use mobile devices have been associated with behavioural and health problems like depression and obesity.
In some cases, extensive and unregulated exposure to screen time can even lead to screen dependency disorder, which can greatly threaten our children’s neural development. The condition may cause brain damage by shrinking key areas of the brain responsible for planning, behaviour regulation, compassion and empathy.
The best way to protect our children from these dangerous health consequences is by reducing their over-reliance on technology through behavioural modification.
The unconventional solution: Mobile gaming apps?
Games are a great help in generating and sustaining our children’s interest. A gamified learning process is found to be an effective method of engaging children.
In fact, games have been found to be particularly effective in motivating users to change their behaviours via rich visuals, challenges and feedback in an interactive environment! You may be wondering, how exactly do game apps achieve this?
When we think of games, we think of completing missions and earning points to advance. To complete “missions”, we follow instructions to carry out a certain desired action, and we get rewarded with points, for example, if we do it successfully. This drives a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment and we get more into the game as we get more rewards.
When used correctly, this rewards mechanism found in gaming apps can be adapted to provide positive reinforcement for kids, driving their motivation to adopt the behaviour that gets them rewarded.
Here’s how we use positive reinforcement to empower children to develop healthy device habits at an early age.
planoApp, a mobile app designed to curb your kids’ excessive device use
planoApp operates on a points-based rewards system to empower children to become more responsible tech users. Just like in mobile game apps, children are rewarded with plano points when they take a desired action or display a desired behaviour.
What are these actions and behaviours?
For instance, the app prompts children to follow science-based eye health recommendations including, taking breaks after 35 minutes of device usage, a face-to-screen distance of 30cm and a screen location of 15 to 20 degrees below their eye level.
If they adhere to the prompts, they are rewarded with points. These points can then be used to redeem exclusive discounts for a plethora of fun, device-free activities via the plano shop. Children can also choose to use these points to customize their in-app avatar.
This simple points and rewards mechanism has proven extremely effective in helping kids take responsibility for their own phone and tablet use.
Most importantly, it makes it fun for kids. They feel a sense of achievement when they earn rewards for desired behaviour, and they get to learn the value of such behaviour when they redeem rewards with their points. Children are much more likely to engage meaningfully when they do use their devices and repeat desired behaviours, until they form healthy device habits that will last them a lifetime!
* plano users can look forward to a series of exciting announcements which include a new app interface for both parents and children and improved product functionality! Download the app for free now!