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Instead of teddy bears, today’s kids sleep with their smartphones tucked into bed with them. A recent story about children being addicted to smartphones in USA TODAY highlights a growing concern for parents — kids who exhibit signs of addiction when it comes to their phones.

The 11-year-old girl in South Korea highlighted in the USA TODAY story is almost constantly connected to her smartphone. She writes messages to her friends and even takes time to “feed” a digital hamster.

Her story is not uncommon. Parents of children with smartphones know it can be a challenge to get their kids to take a break.

Common Sense Media, an organization that works to improve the lives of kids and families through technology and media education, conducted a study asking teens about their attachment to their mobile devices. The results showed 41% of teens said they’re “addicted to their mobile device.”

“What we’re hearing from teens is that they do wish they could unplug and they wish their lives weren’t so emeshed with digital and social media,” Common Sense Media’s Parenting Editor Caroline Knorr told Mashable. “We need parents to hear that message. Teens are really asking for their parents to model good behavior and set limits on social media.

“Parents need to remember they’re kid’s role models in the digital age,” she says. Kids are modeling their parent’s behaviors when it comes to how often they check their gadgets and social media accounts.

“It’s really hard for teens to set limits on themselves,” she says, adding that for teens in particular, any social activity is extremely important to them.

Parents should set limits and talk about responsible usage before giving their children smartphones. One tip Knorr offers parents with digitally obsessed kids is to have them charge their phone in their parent’s bedroom every night and tell them they can have the phone back in the morning.

“The ultimate goal is you want to help your kid regulate his or her own usage,” Knorr said.

If parents notice their child is only happy when they’re using their cellphone, or if their child is upset because their smartphone gets in the way of accomplishing other activities — those are signs of addiction and parents need to intervene, she says. The first step would be to talk to your pediatrician.

“There are a lot of Internet sites that promise help for all kinds of technology addictions, but the best way to proceed if you’re feeling there is a problem — start with your doctor who can give an assessment.”

We know excessive smartphone use is something to be monitored and aware of, since smartphone addiction is real — although according to psychology manuals, more research is needed.

For today’s kids, life before modern technology is difficult to imagine. Conversely, adults remember a time when there was greater balance between real life and screen time — and even for us, taking a break from our devices is difficult.

Do you worry your kids use their smartphones obsessively? Tell us in the comments.

Source: Mashable, Kate Freeman

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