Children addicted to smart phones?

Children, as young as four, are receiving treatment for technology addiction. Dr Richard Graham set up the UK's first treatment clinic.
19 September 2013

Interview with 

Dr Richard Graham, Tavistock Clinic, London


Children, as young as four, are receiving treatment for technology addiction.

We are joined by Dr Richard Graham, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Tavistock Clinic, London who launched the UK's first young person's technology addiction treatment clinic.

Hannah -   Today's children seem to be surrounded by technology - Child technologySmartphones, internet connected TVs, baby proof iPad covers and even iPotties.  A recent survey of over 1,000 families by suggests that 1 in 7 parents let their toddlers use such gadgets for 4 hours or more a day.  Perhaps it's no surprise then that we're hearing reports of children as young as 4 who are receiving treatments for technology addiction.  I spoke with Dr. Richard Graham, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the Tavistock Clinic London.  He's launched the UK's first young person's technology addiction treatment clinic.

Richard -   In setting up these services, I wanted there to be a place that if someone had a query or a question, there would be a place to turn to because I think within the health space, there's been huge debate as to how serious or not these issues are.  But as we see the evolution of technology and their access to devices becomes even easier as it gets smaller and then very soon, they'll be on our heads or on our wrists.  That I think there are questions at times about consumption and use or a parent might want to know where to turn.  So, that's very difficult for small children to use terms like addiction because most children won't be addicted to a teddy bear or a doll by those criteria and will be distressed if you take it away.  But the principle was that, to try and get a healthy adjustment, a healthy balance to using devices and certainly not completely restricting them.

Hannah -   According to 2008 report by the European Union, 1 in every 100 children in Europe currently meet the criteria for technology addiction because when deprived, they become chronically agitated and irritable.  I asked Richard about treating toddlers addicted to technology.

Richard -   Today, I was even from a child psych therapist, just observing how much children absolutely taking notice of a parents' use of devices and are fascinated by the amount of attention we, as adults give to Smartphones and iPads.  So, I suppose if thinking about this, you know, one is thinking that we ourselves need to model a healthy adjustment to the devices and be aware that we're being watched by small and older children for that matter in our use of them.  But in saying that, I suppose fundamentally, if you feel that the use of any device with playing some other wonderful games and really enjoying that interactive screen, which for a child will help hand, eye coordination develop.  And it gives them a sense of being able to change their world in a way that would've been unknown to many of us, which is great.  But if that gets in the way of eating, of going to bed, of needing to go out, etc, then there's a very early sign that you need to start to establish some boundaries in relation to that.  So, the child has a clear sense of what the expectations are and can then either trying to give them some notice before you're going to be asking them to stop.  I mean, they're always at a critical point in the game whenever it's time to stop.


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