5-year-old Kenny’s (not his real name) parents often let him play games on the mobile phone during mealtimes. What they didn’t know was, he was slowly getting addicted to them.
So much that, he started throwing tantrums when being refused the phone.
And one day, when he threw his mum’s smartphone across the room and smashed it during a tantrum, his parents knew they needed help.
It was the third time he had flung the phone like that.
Little child addicted to mobile phone counseled
Kenny’s parents took the brave step of taking him to see a counselor, to treat him for his phone addiction.
Sadly, they are not the only ones.
Touch Cyber Wellness, a center which runs cyber wellness education and counseling programmes, says it handled 34 cases in 2015, 49 in 2016, and 76 in 2017.
Only, Kenny was the youngest smartphone addict the center had seen.
Apparently, the center’s helplines receive about 8-10 calls a week from distressed parents seeking help and advice on weaning their children from mobile devices and social media.
Touch Cyber Wellness senior coach Michelle Lee recently told The New Paper: “As more young people have a phone, and at increasingly younger ages, they become more susceptible to phone addiction because they tend to lack self-regulation and consequential thinking.”
Child weaned from phone addiction
Mr. Chong Ee Jay, a counsellor and manager at Touch Family Services, has been quoted as saying, “Increasingly, smartphone addiction is intertwined with behavioral issues.”
“This includes anti-social behavior and ignoring of parents so that they can have solo device time.”
If you are wondering about Kenny, thankfully, he’s doing well now.
Mr. Chong recommended “digital detox” for Kenny. He couldn’t use smartphones for two months. He was also asked to talk and play with his siblings and go outdoors instead.
As expected, initially, the boy didn’t react kindly to the timeout and threw temper tantrums. However, by the end of the month, he had settled down quite well and actually started to enjoy the family bonding time.
Mr. Chong advises, “As parents, we need a long-term game plan in mind and adjust our approach when it comes to giving children smartphones.”
Smartphone addiction in Singapore
According to The New Paper, a recent study by global digital literacy group DQ Institute and Singtel found that Singapore children aged 8-12 spend close to 35 hours a week online for entertainment, much more than the global average of 32 hours.
This is worrying, as this exposes them to vices like cyberbullying, video game addiction, offline meeting and online sexual behaviour and predators.
Last year, a top addiction therapist warned, “I always say to people, when you’re giving your kid a tablet or a phone, you’re really giving them a bottle of wine or a gram of coke.”
Time spent online, even messaging friends on Snapchat and Instagram can be just as dangerously addictive for children as drugs and alcohol.
Here are some helplines for cyber wellness concerns:
- Help123 Cyber Wellness Community Support: A one-stop platform to address cyber wellness concerns faced by youths, parents or educators. Users can get relevant information on cyber issues and interact with trained counselors through web chat or phone.
Timings: Mon to Fri 10.00 am – 6.00 pm (except public holidays)
Chat Online at: www.help123.sg Mon to Fri: 2.00 pm – 10.00 pm (except public holidays)
Contact No: 1800–612 3123
- TOUCH Cyber Wellness: Provides assessment counselling services and intervention programmes to both individuals and families.
Address: TOUCH Cyber Wellness
5 Stadium Walk, #04-02
Leisure Park Kallang
Contact No: General Enquiries – 6730 9520
Centre Programmes – 6343 6925
TOUCHline (Counselling) – 1800 377 2252
- MeToYou Cyber Care (a programme by Montfort [email protected] FSC): MeToYou Cyber Care is a cyber wellness programme for youths aged 12 to 18 years old.
Timings: Mon to Fri 9.00 am – 6.00 pm
Contact number: 6270–8327 / 9173–1766
- Tinkle Friend Helpline(manned by Singapore Children’s Society): A national toll free helpline and chatline for all primary–school–aged children in Singapore. It provides support, advice and information to lonely and distressed children, especially in situations when their parents or main caregivers are
Timings: Mon to Fri 2.30 pm – 5.00 pm
Chat Online at: www.tinklefriend.com Mon to Fri: 2.30 pm – 5.30 pm Wed: 6.30 pm – 8.30 pm
Contact No: 1800–274 4788
Also READ: What happens to children whose parents are addicted to their phones
(Source: The New Paper)