Is My Kid a Digital Drug Addict?


“Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

But it’s even worse than we think.” ~Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

The other night my 2.5 year old woke up from a dream screaming about the characters in his favorite show, Little Einsteins. He was having a nightmare about the show, and when I held and consoled him he woke up enough to say he wanted “Annie” (from the show) to come over.

Like a lot of parents, we’ve gotten into the habit of letting our toddler watch regular tv shows (mostly Little Einsteins, Bob the Builder, Sesame Street) and to play games on the iPad when we need him to be quiet or well-behaved. This is especially true in the mornings when we’re trying to get do a lot in a short amount of time to get ready for work and out the door.

I don’t think the shows are all bad — they can certainly be educational, and I think he’s learned a lot from them. But he’s becoming addicted and obsessed, quickly thrown into a tizzy when we turn it off, and his sleep talk reveals how it’s invading his brain and dreams.

I am concerned.

I became even more concerned after seeing this article on “digital heroin” in children.

Admittedly, the problem starts with us. We ourselves are addicted to our phones — constantly carrying them and responding to their buzzes and beeps. How can we not expect our kids to learn from us?

So, what do we do?

I don’t have the answers and would love to hear from other moms. Here are some things we are trying now:

  • Avoid TV first thing in the morning. This is hard, and I’m trying to find other activities could  in this early morning time to keep him occupied and engaged. Any suggestions?
  • Avoid TV in the evening before bedtime
  • Have books around – read books instead of turning on the TV
  • Play outside more (this is hard in rain/winter)
  • Never have TV/ipad in bedroom
  • When we do watch something – make it a special occasion and make it clear it is for a limited amount of time. If tantrum happens when we turn it off, deal with that, but do NOT turn the TV back on.
  • Most importantly  — set an example ourselves. We need to get off our phones and and be present with our family.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas as we work on our digital detox!




  1. Today’s parents are facing challenges never faced by earlier generations of teachers—how to stop screens from overtaking the lives of our children. It is scary and frightening.

    I fear too few parents understand the dangers. The book “The Big Disconnect” is one of the best books on this topic. Kids are viewing hard core pornography as early as 6 and 7. This is horrifying and a threat to not only their health but to the future of this country.

    One of the keys is to have firm and inviolable family rules, which parents have to abide by, too. You outline terrific examples of such family rules in your bullet points above. No TV in bedrooms, no devices during family dinners, etc.

    As you point out, parents need establish boundaries and limits, and be strict about enforcing them.

    Thanks for the wonderful post.


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