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Balancing tech time and avoiding 'internet addiction' in children

The Center for Parenting Education says spending too much time on devices can lead to an internet addiction. Just like any addiction, it can disrupt a child's life.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Kids today have grown up with electronics, with many rarely having spent a day without a smartphone, tablet or the internet. 

Add in the recent holidays, and it's an easy bet that your kids may have received a new device for Christmas.

The Center for Parenting Education says spending too much time on devices can lead to an internet addiction. Which, just like any other addiction, can destroy a healthy balance of interests and activities in your child's life, especially for younger kids.

So as we settle indoors this winter, parents may be wondering how to balance their tech time. 

Clinical psychologist Dr. Aimee Drescher says you can start by keeping an eye on what they're doing and how much time they're spending logged in and then limiting their hours if necessary.

"I encourage parents to have some sort of a shutoff time," said Drescher. "There are lots of different tools you can use to monitor quiet time."

But she says it's important to be wise about how you go about reducing that time because, "kids tend to see the benefit of it when it doesn't feel like a punishment, so replacing that time and activities with something else like playing a board game."

Parents should also keep your child's behavior in mind during the week and then consider being flexible and perhaps give a little more time on the weekends or as a reward.

Of course, COVID-19 has tossed a wrench into the works since homeschool learning and the amount of time they're on devices has changed things. For many kids, they are on the screen almost the whole day and experts say there's a difference between plugging in for work and for social time.

Keep in mind that parenting is about balance so it's important to allow teens access to their friends even if that means more time on the phone or FaceTime.

"I think it's really important right now for our teenagers to have access to their friends," says Drescher, "so if that means they're on a little bit more where they're talking or FaceTime-ing, I would say that we would want to continue to let them to do that because that's helping them remain socialized."

And of course, the best way to reduce your child's tech time is by leading by example and logging off yourself.