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Addictive Behaviour Starts Young – So Give Children & Teens ‘experiences’ And Not Devices This Christmas

In the lead up to Christmas – and against the backdrop of the current cost-of-living crisis and ongoing concerns about ‘online safety’ – experts from Priory – the UK’s  largest provider of mental health services – are releasing  ‘words of warning’ to parents (via national & regional media and podcast platforms)  about the amount of time that young people spend on their smartphones, urging parents to take difficult but decisive steps to “ditch addictive gadgets and buy ‘experiences’ for children and teens this Christmas instead”.

Beth Tudgay, who works with children and adolescents and is based at the Priory’s Woodbourne Hospital in Birmingham, and its Wellbeing Centre in Birmingham, says: “Addictions start young. Parents know this of course, but it can be very difficult, especially at Christmas, not to buy the present your child really wants but which you know is likely to fuel their addiction to say gaming, the X box, Insta, WhatsApp, YouTube, anything on their smartphone – the list is endless.

“So how do you celebrate Christmas while trying not to feed those addictions? What comes up for me every time is ‘experiences’. Buying experiences and then doing family things together. This might mean spending a day or a few hours doing something your child is really passionate about, or just being close as a family together. Young people who spend a lot of time behind an X Box can fundamentally be quite lonely, so do something to connect.”

Beth says it’s about thinking outside the box – literally: “Experiences aren’t gifts to open on Christmas Day so you might need to be creative – put clues around the house which end with an explanation of what the experience is going to be. Let’s say it’s a father and child going to a football match together – wrapping up something connected to the event and then writing a detailed description of what the day is going to look like and saying: ‘You and me are going for a day and doing something special.’

“And get out of the house.

“Gaming is what we hear about the most in terms of addictions among young people, and social media use generally. It’s obscene how many hours children spend on their phones. How to stop this?  Boundaries and being very assertive. Taking the phone away, for example. Yes there might be backlash and hysteria but that is ok, and it’s then the responsibility of the child, parent and whole family system to care and ‘sooth’ for that.

“Parents sometimes express huge fear that if they take the phone away, a child might overreact – but that parent is being held hostage and leaves the child in a powerful position. I would encourage parents to put in firm boundaries and ask themselves ‘why is my child doing this for hours a day; what are they not getting from somewhere else?’ If they are looking for approval on social media – getting likes, or acceptance – maybe they are not getting that from elsewhere?”

Addictive behaviour starts young – so give children experiences and not devices this Christmas, says Priory expert – Wellbeing News from Need to See IT Publishing



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