It might be tricky to find the right limit, as even adults often get defensive when told they spend too much time on social networks. What are the signals suggesting that your child is crossing the boundary to addiction?

Be wary if your child becomes so immersed in the online world that he/she loses interest in real life. In extreme cases, children might even try to avoid contact with their friends except via digital means (chats, social media etc.).

Another sign of trouble is if the time spent in front of screens is the only time when the child appears happy and any attempt to limit their usage leads to conflict or an aggressive reaction. Use technology, such as parental control apps, to spot the problem in its early stages.

The above-mentioned points also have implications for the family life of the child. Being focused only on digital activities might create divisions between a child and their relatives. Living in the virtual world can also lead to difficulties in a child’s social life outside home.

While time isn’t the only factor to consider, increased time spent on social media can also be an indication of a developing addiction.

These are, of course, not the only signals attentive parents should watch out for. So, what can you do, if your child is being “difficult” when the topic comes up? Here are a few tips:

  1. Never give up on communication. Talk to your child and guide them through the digital environment from day one. It’s good to adopt a non-confrontational approach when talking to your child about the issue. When the time comes, and they ask for more independence, it should be granted, but make it clear you’re always available to talk about any issue or disturbing online behaviour your child might encounter.
  2. Don’t be a dictator. Build trust and understanding. These factors will ensure the child knows that a parent is the person to turn to if anything bad happens.
  3. Teach your child the necessary balance between the digital and offline realm. If your kids like to play games, put it in their schedule, but also organize other leisure activities they will enjoy just as much – e.g. suggest they do sports or play a musical instrument and support them in their activities.
  4. If you feel that your child is overusing their device, don’t take it away. Instead, suggest practical steps that will help regulate its use. For example, uninstalling some of the social networks/chat apps can limit the compulsion to constantly look at a smartphone or tablet - limiting notifications can have a similar effect.
  5. Parents are the primary role models for their offspring, and that includes the use of their electronic devices. If a parent is picking up their smartphone every two minutes, a child is likely to copy that behaviour, building up an unhealthy habit. Be a good role model and keep your own digital consumption under control.
  6. Plan short breaks from technology. A weekend without a mobile phone or tablet can be beneficial for both children and parents. If you decide to give it a try, plan accordingly and prepare a lot of engaging activities that will keep you busy and the technology “out of reach”.

For a safe online experience, keep track of what your kids do with their devices. ESET Parental Control for Android allows you to limit their online and gaming time, helps you find out what they are up to in cyberspace and block websites with inappropriate content. Uniquely, it also gives a voice to kids, letting them ask for permission to play or browse longer or visit specific websites.