Covid turned our kids into screen addicts

I am worried about my kids (11 and 7 yo). They always liked gaming and Youtube, but since lockdowns and quarantines happened, things got out of hand. Often they couldn’t meet friends irl, so we allowed them to play online roleplays with them while speaking to them on Skype. Sometimes for hours. Now I realize, it became a problem. The screen became the center of interest, the most important thing and when they don’t get it, they’re angry or bored and don’t know what else to do.

I started to do more outdoor stuff with them. But it’s not enough. When we’re at home, it’s endless discussions about the screentime. Just very, very addictive behaviour. Something needs to change. Any advice?


Screen time feeds the reward centres: screens are built around catching and retaining attention. There’s a lot of stimulus-response involved. (Hmmm do we know anything about that? :innocent: ) Stimulus-response is normal in real life - for example, seeing a piece of fruit or something tasty, is a stimulus to eat it - but screens are refined, amplified stimulus (another thing we here are familiar with).

The basic principles of sober living help: love real life, on life’s terms.

Boundaries are worthwhile here. Not being able to see friends is actually not the end of the world. For centuries, kids who grew up on farms had small circles of friends and might go days at a time without seeing them. Family - parents, kids - is a social space as well.

You can set boundaries about times of day for screens, and suitable apps, etc. Kids are flexible and they will adapt, but only if you are consistent about it. (It also helps to give a heads-up about 5-10 minutes before the time ends, so there’s no battle when it’s actually over.) The problem will happen if you are inconsistent, because then the real question is, what mood are my parents in & what am I actually getting today.

30 minutes was good for a phone call, and it’s still good for a weekday night of Internet time. Weekend days a bit longer. It’s the same as board game rules: most weekdays don’t have enough time for a board game night every day. Weekend days are more flexible. Nothing has really changed other than the stimulus :innocent:


My only advice is to weather the complaints. My kids usually have ten or so minutes of quite vocal complaints. Once they realise I am not going to change my mind then they start playing with toys etc.


Hi there, I’m a gaming addict and technology with respectively 530 and 6 days sober.
My top suggestion is: Set clear boundaries and shut down all arguments. After my parents divorced, I lived with my mom. She didn’t care about my gaming time and enabled it. At first she resisted, but she gave me enough room to manipulate her. Of course I am mostly to blame in this, but no boundaries or a lack of someone enforcing then can be a factor in the formation of a gaming addiction. Trust me, in the future they’ll be grateful that you shut their addictive behaviour. Screen-addiction is something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. The inability to do something that is socially accepted makes me feel like I’m different and there’s triggers everywhere. People at school gaming, people outside playing Pokémon go, music from games, TV advertisements, etc. People think I am weird for not being aware of the newest games and hypes. And for me my addiction has spread to anything TV related. I am addicted to streaming services, YouTube, twitch, cable, etc. If people my age(18) don’t talk about gaming, then it’s TV shows. I’ve had to eat on the toilets a few times at school because it was so hard to deal with the constant triggers during lunch breaks.
My other suggestion is to take away all gaming stuff, but that’s probably too radical and likely not even necessary.


Thank you all for your advice. I talked to my husband many times before about those boundaries. Thing is, he himself spends way too much time gaming on his phone. It’s one specific game and it bothers me, because it’s very obvious that it has a huge priority in his life. Talking about rolemodels… He admits he has an addictive personality but is like “So what, yolo, accept me how I am”. Means I’m a little bit of a lone warrior in this.

Yesterday I sat everybody on the table and set new rules. 2 hours of screen time per day for everybody. Also more family time with good old board games and such. They were all three a bit pissed. Lol. But day one went better than expected and in the evening the kids were laughing and happy while playing roleplays irl together. I guess I have to accept my boss bitchy role in this family if I want to keep it as free from addictions as possible. At least for the kids. They deserve to be happy. Not addicted.


It is true, non-screen time often is more work for the parents, and can be hard when we have work, or our own leisure to do. Every family had their own balance. Glad you made some steps to finding yours.

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I definitely have morphed into bossy bitch role. Our family is in the same situation. Some days it’s really tough to hold boundaries. Like if it is rainy or I have work to do. Please know that you have other parents in the trenches with you. Doing the best we can. One day at a time.