CGI Clinic welcomes the upcoming Australian 60 minutes segment this week on the impact of “Screen Addiction” on families.

CGI Clinic Special 60 Minutes Screen Addiction Commentary. Source: 60 Minutes preview screenshot

View the preview below.

 “Addiction” controversial, but we need a healthy discussion
Using the term “addiction” in children is very controversial and a only a small percentage of kids could be diagnosed clinically as being addicted. But Australian families need more awareness of the potential dangers of “screen time” (use of TVs, PCs, smartphones and tablets) on children. It is unfair to blame or judge parents for this problem, because the information is not made widely available. You might glare at parents when you see a child using an iPad at a restaurant table, but these devices didn’t come with recommendations nor etiquette guidelines when we bought them for our children. Modern day parenting is hard enough as it is and not everyone is a tech expert. Broadcasts like the 60 Minutes segment might be the much needed pendulum swing to balance our attitudes towards screens; more specifically mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Australia needs this discussion.
Like many concerns parents, this mother is worried that “there’s something about it (screens) that changes their brain.” Source: 60 Minutes Preview Screenshot.

Tantrums are normal, so what are “Tablet Tantrums” and is it normal?
Child tantrums are a fact of life. Learning how to regulate distressing feelings and deal with everyday problems is a part of a child’s normal development. Mobile devices are very convenient and effective at distracting a child from distressing feelings.  However, these devices could be disrupting very important life lessons required for a child’s emotional development. Tablet tantrums may be a sign that these devices have been used too often as a coping tool. You may need to to help your child practice regulating their emotions without a screen.

Tantrums are normal. If a child is holding a tablet, is this normal? Source: 60 Minutes Preview Screenshot.

Could vague parenting be contributing to Tablet Tantrums?
CGI Clinic recently reviewed a Singaporean study published this year on digital devices and parenting. You can read the review here.
This study reported that parents were very good at monitoring and setting limits regarding their child’s computer use. However, when it came to smartphones and tablets, the study found that parents tend NOT to set time limits nor give specific instructions to their children.

When it comes to computers, parents are very good at setting limits and giving instructions. But with mobile devices parents can be vague. Source: 60 Minutes Preview Screenshot.

A lack of awareness?
This study could explain the lack of public parental awareness about these modern devices. Personal computers and TVs have been around for a long time. Over the years, the parenting community have had this discussion many times before.  We need to have this discussion again, this time to include smartphones and tablets.
These devices may be very effective at pacifying our kids and distracting them from boredom. However, we don’t really know the long-term effects of these devices, especially on young brains which are developing and vulnerable to the environment.

Dr Kimberly Young, American psychologist and Internet Addiction Expert. Source: 60 Minutes Preview Screenshot.

What the research says and recommendations
Dr Kimberley Young who will be featured on this 60 Minutes special is a pioneering expert in the field of “Internet Addiction”. She is responsible for the Internet Addiction Test. There are many studies on technology use from around the world based on her work and recommendations. Most experts recommend time limitation of varying duration based on the age of the child. What the Singaporean study suggests is that parents need to give more specific instructions to young children when it comes to mobile device use.

Inform yourself on the potential effects of screens on your child to help you make decisions. Source: 60 Minutes Preview Screenshot.

CGI Clinic’s recommended screen duration guidelines:
Pre-school children: No screen use. Particularly mobile devices.
Primary school children: Up to 30 mins screen time on school days. Up to 1 hour on non-school days.
Secondary school children: This should be negotiated with parents based on the child. A conservative and tailored approach is better. The research suggests that obesity increases and academic performance decreases when a teen plays a computer game for more than 1 hour.

Read the warnings carefully and inform your decision making. Source: 60 Minutes Preview Screenshot.

Other healthy guidelines for all children:

  • Ensure chores and homework done before screen use.
  • No screens at the dinner table.
  • Switch off screens 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Encourage play without the use of screens.
  • Regular breaks every 30 mins
  • Non screen days.
  • Talk to your children, attempt to understand their screen use by spending family-time together.
  • If there is a Government or product label warning, use it.
  • Not all screens nor games are created equal. Internet connected activities and modern games are more advanced and potentially more addictive.
  • Remember, Steve Jobs CEO of Apple did not let his own children use the iPad.
  • These CGI Clinic recommendations are guidelines only and by no means comprehensive. Not all children are the same. If you would like to discuss this more please join our Facebook page here.


“Young school children’s use of digital devices and parental rules” (Goh, 2015)

Goh, W. W., Bay, S., & Chen, V. H. H. (2015). Young school children’s use of digital devices and parental rules. Telematics and Informatics,32(4), 787-795.