I was talking to an adolescent therapist today about technology addiction. While he agreed addiction is an issue, he said sometimes it's the kid using online activities to avoid social situations because they're uncomfortable.
Some kids are anxious, shy, or introverts. They are not comfortable at parties, in groups, or meeting new people, etc. But in video games, there is no "face-to-face" so it's less stressful, and they feel they can be themselves. (This is even more true with kids on the autism spectrum.) So when faced with either going to a party or playing a video game, this kid will choose the video game.
In fact, Dr. Brent Conrad, a clinical psychologist (not the one I was talking to), says that those with "anxious" character traits do tend to gravitate more towards video games, because it helps take their mind off of what is making them anxious and focus on something else.
So, if your kid is turning down friends' invitations and instead choosing video games, it could be because they feel socially awkward.
The expert I spoke with recommends several things to manage screen time:
- Provide socially awkward kids with options that don't include video games and that will get them out of their comfort zone, like, "You can go to the pool, do this volunteer thing, or go to a movie (or whatever)."
- Give them a list of things to do--a mix of household chores and creative, athletic or productive things--before they get screen time, to give them a sense of accomplishment.
- Be curious about their choices. Ask them why they made a certain choice. (They won't always answer, but ask anyway!)
At the end of the day, you know your kid. If you think there is a problem, you can't get him off screens, she'd rather play Fortnite all day than hang out with friends, or you notice mood changes, and certainly if grades are falling or they lose interest in things that used to excite them, talk to your pediatrician or a mental health professional. And make sure you are modeling a healthy relationship with your technology!
(Anxiety is a real thing and should not be taken lightly. If you think your child is suffering from an anxiety disorder, please contact a mental health professional.)
I'm a social media professional and mom to two boys. I started Hashtag Parenting because I saw many moms and dads struggling to keep up with parenting in the changing digital landscape - including myself! The ever-changing apps, myriad monitoring solutions, and the texting lingo! Whew. I wanted to make it easier to find the most recent information, all in one place. I hope this site is a source of information and support for you. Connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn by clicking the icon directly below.