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iPad-addicted toddlers found to suffer withdrawal, require therapy

April 23, 2013 5:52pm
Toddlers who are allowed access to tablet devices for extended periods of time everyday are in danger of suffering from long-term effects, experts have observed.
 
In the UK, a four-year-old girl became increasingly “distressed and inconsolable” whenever her parents took her iPad away from her. The child, the youngest known to ever require treatment for this particular condition, has since then been receiving compulsive behavior therapy, according to The Telegraph.
 
Escalated use
 
The parents told the doctors that, in the span of a year, the amount of time their daughter spent on the iPad had escalated to up to four hours daily.
 
“The child's mother called me and described her symptoms,” said Dr. Richard Graham, who three years ago established the first technology addiction program in the UK. “She told me she had developed an obsession with the device and would ask for it constantly. She was using it three to four hours every day and showed increased agitation if it was removed.”
 
He believes there are many other children who have become addicted to iPads and mobile phones. When these devices are taken away from the young technology addicts, they experience the same withdrawal symptoms as drug addicts and alcoholics.
 
'Digital detox'
 
Dr. Graham warns parents that this condition could seriously interfere with a child’s ability to form normal social relationships, so that something as natural as human interaction could become exhausting for him or her.
 
“Children have access to the internet almost from birth now,” he said. “They see their parents playing on their mobile devices and they want to play too. It's difficult, because having a device can also be very useful in terms of having a reward, having a pacifier. But if you don't get the balance right it can be very dangerous.
 
“They can't cope and become addicted, reacting with tantrums and uncontrollable behavior when they are taken away. Then as they grow older, the problem only gets worse. Even the most shy kids, when they hit their teens, suddenly want to become sociable and popular.”
 
London’s Capio Nightingale clinic is the site of the 28-day treatment program, called “digital detox”. Designed by Dr Graham to specifically treat children suffering from addiction to technology, it can cost up to £16,000 —or over P1 million.
 
Troubling trends
 
Over the past three years, the number of people who have become dependent on this type of technology has risen by 30 per cent, according to psychiatrists.
 
A recent UK survey revealed a disturbing statistic: over half of parents allow their very young children to play with digital gadgets.
 
Babies.co.uk questioned more than 1,000 parents about their babies’ use of these devices. One in seven of them confessed that they allowed their babies to use tablets and smartphones for up to four hours a day, or more.
 
“Given that babies between 3-12 months are awake for only around 10 hours per day this is a huge proportion of their waking day,” said the managing director of the website, James Macfarlane. “Although 81 per cent of our users felt that children today spend too much time on smart devices, it hasn’t put most of them off using them to entertain their baby.” — TJD, GMA News



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