Is Your Child Suffering from Screen-Time Addiction?

Is Your Child Suffering from Screen-Time Addiction?

How to Set Your Boundaries as a Parent

When we think of addiction we usually only think of alcohol and drugs, but there are many other kinds of addictive behaviours that people use, including screen time addiction. Most people’s perception of internet addiction is that it’s no big deal – and our society agrees! In fact, many parents will question whether screen time addiction is really even “a thing”. Spending a lot of time gaming or on their phones iswhat children do, right?

Just like any other addiction, internet and screen time addiction aren’t really about the internet. Rather, it’s about what’s going on underneath on an emotional level that a child or an adult may be trying to stuff down, which leads to further problems later down the road. One of the analogies I like to use is a child’s jack-in-the-box toy. Imagine we’re stuffing our feelings down, stuffing them down and stuffing them down, then quickly putting the lid on it. You feel relieved, thinkingit’s all under control – but then when you least expect it, up it comes to the surface all at once!

Unfortunately, for many children, Covid-19 has accelerated their screen time use due to home learning when schools were closed, taking away their previous time of in-person interaction.

With increased use of screen time, children are now not as social as they used to be with each other which is creating a problem in our society, especially for those who are more shy or introverted. It’s easier for these children to be social on the internet than in person, easier for them to have chats and communicate with others via online gaming and other social media. They don’t even have to get dressed and go out to meet anyone, so normal and healthy social skill development is impaired and delayed with increased use of screen time.

Is Your Child Suffering from Screen-Time Addiction ?

An internet addiction can manifest in a variety of ways, such as gaming, being glued to social media, excessive online shopping, or watching porn. As a parent, here are some warning signs that your child may have become addicted to the internet:- Spending increasing time alone while accessing screen time- Decreased interest in being with other family members- Not maintaining friendships that used to matter to them- Over-eating or under-eating- Increasingly poor hygiene- Interrupted sleep patterns- Skipping out on schoolwork assignments in order to stay online- Feelings of depression and/or anxiety when they are unable to engage in screen time

So, what can you do if you think your child is suffering from too much screen time?

Photo by Julia M Cameron on

#1 – See the Reality of Your Situation

It’s very important to see the reality of what’s happening with your child, instead of minimizing or making excuses.  When we downplay a problem, it generally becomes bigger until it is resolved.  With addiction of any kind, this is definitely true.  Over time, addiction rarely goes away by itself – it usually gets worse and worse until we get the help we need to put a stop to it.  The best thing to do for the addict you love is to come out of any denial you may be in and see this as the problem it truly is.

#2 – Set Boundaries

Communicate clear times throughout the day that screen time is allowed, setting a limit on the amount of time your child can spend on their phone, laptop, games etc. Of course, if you’re still home-schooling, screen time will be higher than normal, but as schools re-open, this should become easier to manage.  

The important thing is that you have a clear balance between their online life and their offline life, as well as what the time balance is between school screen time and free time that they can spend online if they wish.  You can help your child learn to differentiate the two by setting your boundaries clearly and maintaining these, especially if your child resists or tries to push back on them.  Keep in mind that you are setting these boundaries for your child’s own good, because you love them and care about their welfare – not because you are trying to control or punish them.

Is Your Child Suffering from Screen-Time Addiction ?

Photo by Julia M Cameron on

#3 – Develop Your Compassion

Have compassion for yourself as a parent and also for your child. It’s been a tough time for everyone recently and it’s important to remember that everybody has coped differently — and some people may have fallen into addictive tendencies. Know that you can change these behaviours if you choose to – you can make anything in your life better with the right amount of self-care and self-respect. Rather than feeling shame about your situation with your addicted child — which can keep both of you stuck – see if you can make some shifts that will help you start to feel better about yourself first.That’s what it really takes to facilitate change, for both yourself and your child.

#4 – Don’t Ever Give Up!

It can be so easy to give into temptation and allow your child to go online in the middle of a tantrum or when they insist that’s what they want. But don’t be discouraged: this is a completely normal form of manipulation for children to engage in. Instead, stay the course and keep making that conscious choice to maintain your boundaries and limit time off screen for your child.  As time goes on, your child will grow to accept this as the ‘new normal.’

Is Your Child Suffering from Screen-Time Addiction ?

#5 – Reach out for Help

Addiction is basically a symptom of what’s underneath it.  In other words, it is caused by other problems that need to be addressed in order for recovery to then be possible.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help! It is important for you to work with somebody who can help you and your childget underneath the symptom of addiction to find out what it is that’s really going on with them. Once your child has moreself-awareness and understanding of why they are so dependent on screen time – and once you recognize the all-important distinction between helping and enabling – that is when full recovery is possible for your whole family.


About Candace Plattor, Addictions Therapist and Founder of Love With Boundaries

Candace Plattor is an Addictions Therapist in private practice and specializes in working with the family, and other loved ones, of people who are struggling with addiction, in her unique and signature ‘Family Addiction Counselling and Therapy Program’. 

As a former opioid addict (34 years clean and sober now), Candace has learned that overcoming addiction is a family condition: everyone in the family is affected by addiction and everyone needs to heal. For more than three decades she has been helping both addicts and their loved ones understand their dysfunctional behaviours and make healthier life choices.

The results Candace achieves have been astounding: addicts stop using and families regain their lives from the ravages of addiction. 

Not only has her success led to a waiting list of clients but she is a sought after leader in the field of addictions. As the developer of the ‘Love With Boundaries Family Addiction Counselling and Therapy’ method, Candace now works with her team of top counsellors and coaches, helping both the families and their addicts break the devastating cycle of addiction for good. 

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About Love With Boundaries

Love With Boundaries offers family addiction counselling and therapy –  helping families come out of the pain and suffering of addiction forever. This is accomplished by guiding families on how to love with boundaries and how to stop enabling their addict so that the addict may choose to recover from addiction.

Is Your Child Suffering from Screen-Time Addiction ?