Parents in the UK are now paying up to $25,000 for a month long “digital detox” not unlike technological rehab for their iGeneration children. Dr. Richard Graham of the Capio Nightingale Clinic in London developed the program three years ago, concerned with the social development of young children.
“Even the most shy kids,” says Graham, “when they hit their teens, suddenly want to become sociable and popular."
Graham’s most recent patient, a four-year-old girl from the South East of England, is inconsolable when removed from her IPad and taken to tantrums if unappeased. Carried into her teen years, the addiction could warrant in-patient care.
According to babies.co.uk, 81 percent of users feel that children are overexposed to “smart” devices. Regardless of the concern, those devices are to this generation of parents what the television was to housewives: a tireless babysitter.
While time with an IPad can be rewarding, an imbalance “can be very dangerous”, says Graham. Young addicts can experience the same withdrawal symptoms suffered by alcoholics and heroin addicts.
The problem is not only psychological, but also economical. One report described five-year-old Danny Kitchen who charged $2500 worth of IPad game add-ons to his parents’ account. Apple refunded the Kitchens’ money, but reminded Mr. Kitchen that IPad games include a parental off switch for game add-ons.
IPotties and drool-proof tablet covers encourage parents of young children to indulge in technological gift giving. The Laugh and Learn Apptivity Case, and other gadget “extras” like it, allow parents to trade smart device access for quiet time – or rather, as Graham suggested, personal time to scroll through Facebook.