Mother’s account of breaking her toddler’s video-game addiction

Mother’s account of breaking her toddler’s video-game addiction

MALAYSIA - It all started out so easy. Passing the iPhone to my son during dinners at restaurants. It gave me quick relief without having to take him to the fish tanks to see fishes or have him bang spoons on plates. Most of all, it was the fastest way for him to eat up his food, distracted by the iPhone. With my little gadget, it was always a quiet, peaceful dining experience.

Over time, it became an expected practice each time we dined out or when he sat in the shopping cart. At home, he'd throw a tantrum to get the device to play games. He would rummage through his aunt's handbag in search of her iPhone, and pester his uncle for his iPad. He would rush up to relatives, friends and even strangers to view what was on their mobile phone screen. People would gush: "Wow! Only two years old and so clever to play the iPhone!"

My mother, however, would cringe. As a former nurse, she knows an addiction when she sees one. My two-year-old was an iPhone games addict, all right.

I'd heard of video-game addiction during the late 1990s. Concerns over such obsession have grown over the years. I am not an expert on the matter but I have observed the ill-effects it has on people and I heed the warnings from news reports. I did not want my child's social development, and mental and psychological health to be hindered by technology. I asked my mum for help.

The turning point came when we went on a family trip. My mother seized the opportunity to break the addiction by making my son go cold turkey. To accomplish this, my husband and I were barred from using our iPhones during the trip - or at least while in my son's presence. So we only took the devices out at night when he was fast asleep.

The first two days was the worst. He would refuse to eat but scream, cry and throw a fit at restaurants. It was embarrassing as fellow diners turned to stare at the ruckus. Once, a diner came over to enquire what was wrong and when he heard our reply, he told my husband to just give the boy the gadget to keep him quiet.

We were going to give in and take out our iPhones when my mum sternly ordered us to stop. His screams and cries were the addiction breaking, she said. We carried him out of the restaurant to calm him down and returned to rush through our meal.

On Day Three, we started seeing improvements. The crying reduced. I started bringing along coloured pencils and a colouring book for him to fill his time while waiting for the food to arrive at the restaurant. I also let him rattle his spoon on his plate. I found stickers to be a good distraction, too.

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