Smart Phone Addiction: A Parent’s Guide

Did you know, 47% of parents said they thought their children spend too much time in front of screens?

It can be challenging for parents and carers to know whether children are spending too much time on their devices. Furthermore, it’s even more of a challenge to know whether a child is addicted to the internet and social media. As technology is becoming more pervasive, children and young people are experiencing tech – related dependencies.

Do we as parents and carers have the knowledge to identify and support children and young people who may be developing an addiction to their devices?


What parents need to know


It is a recognised health condition

Children as young as 13 are attending ‘smartphone rehab’ following growing concerns over screen time. There are now help centers in the UK which deal with screen addiction for children and adults showing the seriousness of device addiction.

It can cause sleep deprivation

7 out of 10 children said they had missed out on sleep because of their online habits and 60% said they had neglected school work as a result. It is important that children get the sleep they need in order to focus the next day.

 Apps are designed to be addictive

Apps have been designed with ‘psychological tricks’ to constantly keep grabbing your attention. One example of this is on the app Snapchat, where you can gain ‘streaks’ when interacting with your friends. If you don’t respond, you lose the streak. This addictive nature of apps aims to engage children and keep them coming back for more.

Confidence, support and acceptance

The Children’s Commissioner report ‘Life in Likes’, explored how children aged 8-11 are using social media today. It showed that children are using their devices to speak to their online friends about their problems and seek acceptance and support, removing face to face interactions.

 Children may lose interest in other things

Your child may become less interested in anything that does not include their device. You may notice that your child is missing school time and generally being less engaged with other activities in the home. It is important to consult this with your child as soon as you notice a change in their behaviour.


Top Tips for Parents


Limit screen time

In today’s digital age, technology is an important part of a child’s development so completely banning them from their device will mean they are missing out on a lot, including conversations and communication with their friends. Rather than banning them from using their devices, we suggest setting a screen time limit. Work out what you think is a suitable and healthy amount of time for your child to be on their device per week. Remember that your child may need to use devices for their school homework so only set screen limits on recreational time on their device. Once you have established this, have the conversation with them to discuss why you are implementing a screen limit. There will be others in your child’s friendship group who will not have screen limits set and will be sending messages when they do not have access to their phones. 

Encourage outdoor activities

It may seem like an obvious solution, but encouraging children to play with their friends outside will help them realise they can have fun without their device. Playing football, trampolining, camping, going for a walk or swimming are all healthy replacements for screen time. Try to join them in their outdoor activities to show your support.

 Less time means less exposure

There are many risks associated with devices, such as cyberbullying, grooming, sexting, viewing inappropriate content etc. Less time spent on a screen means that a child will be less exposed to these risks.

 Remove devices from their bedroom

Setting a rule about removing devices from bedrooms will help your child to get the sleep they need and be more focussed the next day at school. 20% of teenagers said that they wake up to check their social network accounts on their devices. Even by having a device switched off in their bedroom, they may be tempted to check for notifications.

 Mobile-free meal times

Have you tried to settle your child by giving them a tablet at the dinner table or restaurant? This may seem like a quick fix to calm them down but in reality, it is encouraging them to use their device as a distraction from conversation and dealing with their emotions. We suggest removing all technology from the dinner table and having conversations with your family about how their day has been.

Lead by example

Children model their behavior on their peers, so if their parents are constantly on their device, they will see this as acceptable. Try limiting your own screen time and follow the same rules you have set for them. If you have asked your child to not use their device at the table, make sure you don’t.



Sources Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report 2017:

Journal of Youth Studies

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For more information or images, contact Kirsty Smith in the National Online Safety press office on 01724 231139 or email

Phone: 0800 368 8061






About National Online Safety

National Online Safety provide CPD accredited courses and educational resources to support UK schools to train the whole school community in Online Safety.

The National Online Safety courses have been developed in line with new Ofsted requirements changing from previous E-safety guidelines. School staff can take the National Online Safety E-Learning Course to gain certification to provide as evidence for an Ofsted inspection at the school.



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