Back when I was in the trenches of mothering toddlers, I used to often think ‘this has to be as bad as it gets, right? Toddlerhood will end, this phase will pass and there is definitely light at the end of this tunnel.’ What I didn’t realise was the gut-wrenching difficulty of raising a teenager.
Nothing has prepared me for this.
My fifteen year old son is addicted to technology. I say that in a literal way, not a ‘hahaha, all kids are addicted to technology’ way.
When your child has a technology addiction, you soon learn no device in your home is safe- phones, PCs, handheld games, consoles and more. Everything must be time-tracked, time-limited and/or password protected. This prevents excessive use, hours of gaming at all hours of the night and sneaking about trying to get on every device imaginable when the opportunity arises. Controls may need to be hidden or locked away in a hotel-esque lock box.
You are asked fifty times a day when game or phone time can begin, asked why it’s limited or told you’re an awful, controlling parent for setting limits.
You may struggle to understand how you and your child got here. Is it because he was ‘exposed’ and first used a console at age six? Did that Nintendo DS he received for his eighth birthday help set the stage for addiction? You feel guilty, thinking maybe it is all your fault. You sob when you think of one addiction making your child more prone to other addictions, namely alcohol and drugs.
You struggle to cope when your child has tantrums or cries themself to sleep over a game. Your teenager’s mood swings are obviously impacted by their technology use. Arguments that once occurred monthly or weekly are now an everyday occurrence. You feel like your voice is on replay each time you re-explain why there are limits and rules.
Your concerns grow when grades begin to drop, friendships end and enjoyment of other activities stop because NOTHING is as good as gaming.
You are constantly walking a tight rope because depriving your child of all device use is realistically impossible. You don’t want to completely ban something they enjoy or make them a target for bullying because they are the only kid without a social media account. Technology use is also a normal and mandatory aspect of secondary school. Our culture has become reliant on technology and its use is expected.
The experts you have seen say limiting, but not completely banning, use is the goal. But how do you do this? Every limit set creates an opportunity for another disagreement. You muddle your way through doing the best you can and hope your child one day grows up to be an adult who values human connection more than a screen.