Digital Detox for Your Teenage Child?

Cannot get off the device? Addicted to Games? A common feature in most homes nowadays. Quite often, I see parents trying to discipline and restrict the devices forcibly. Is this the right approach? What is the permanent solution?

Disciplining and forcibly restricting the device could be a short term fix, not a solution to the problem. Any problem to be solved needs a better understanding first, to know the root cause and then find the right solution. So why and how does this addiction happen in the first place? Even an adult is likely to get addicted to the games nowadays. We need to understand the mechanism of this gaming addiction first.

Remember our childhood of the 1970s and 1980s? We used to love to get out to play games in the parks. What was that attraction and craze to just go and play? Why did we crave to go there each day in the evening? It was also an addiction which was perfectly acceptable and our parents used to give us deadlines like: “Come back home before it is dark, or when the streetlights are on, remember?”. Given a choice, we would have continued playing forever.. but we used to control our feelings and get back home. More importantly, the feeling or craving to get out and play was due to release of dopamine in our body when we played. This dopamine release is also called “runner’s high” when we run long distances like a half marathon etc.. It has been researched that the gaming companies found out that they could stimulate this release of dopamine by giving a sense of challenge and then a reward for achieving a level of skill on an electronic game. All games have been designed to enable dopamine release, which is the major cause for addiction. Unfortunately, this is completely unhealthy as this will reduce the base dopamine level over a period of time, causing the person to become lethargic and lazy as they get used to this form of addiction. In the runner’s case or the outdoor games cases, the dopamine release is associated with effort and challenge taken up physically too and improves the health and also boosts the energy levels of the person. You will find the marathon runners, always full of energy even post a long-distance run.

Now that we know the root cause of this addiction, how do we solve the problem? It is actually simple; we have to replace the digital addiction with a positive addiction of outdoor activities. This needs to be done very subtly, and with a lot of appreciation and rewards. The easiest way is to get the children to join a “running club” or a “sports club” where they make their new friends. And each time they go there, they need to “win” and “achieve” and get a “satisfying reward” and a next “challenge” to take up, similar to the video game device. This is a critical part which gets missed, and if not managed well, the teenager will slip back into the negative addiction of gaming. In my personal experience as a running trainer and coach, “Long distance running” is the easiest outdoor activity that can be started for any and everyone, irrespective of their inclination to sports or outdoors. This also can be rewarded easily, and each person can achieve their “personal best” each day and get rewarded and also challenged to achieve the next personal best the next day. Suitable appreciation and rewards need to be thought of according to the personality of the child. For example, an aggressive and rebellious personality may need to be challenged for eg. ” I don’t think you can do this“, so that they try to prove you wrong, whereas an introverted and quiet personality may need to be motivated and supported with appreciation and encouragement. “Different strokes for different folks” needs to be adopted, when dealing with teenagers, and this is very critical because each person is unique and different and same techniques will not work with all.

Mostly, these things are better done professionally with a mentor who understands the personality through a psychometric assessment as well as validates the findings through personal interactions with the child and the parents together in a positive manner, without any “negative” or “adverse” comments about the child.

Connect with me to know more and get your child out of digital addiction. @Jeevan Pravaas, Life Mentoring services with a positive touch

Scroll to Top