9-year-old Dodge Caloon of Silkstone is addicted to his PS4 and Xbox.
9-year-old Dodge Caloon of Silkstone is addicted to his PS4 and Xbox. David Nielsen

Tech addiction a real problem for one Ipswich family

FRUSTRATED mum Rochelle Caloon was at her wit's end only weeks ago and at the point of throwing her son's Xbox and PlayStation out of the window.

Son Dodge, 9, was addicted to gaming, with the Silkstone mother-of-two having to use outside help to ensure he made it to school on time each day.

"It was only after my family daycare mum offered to pick him up in the mornings that I've been able to get him to school on time," Mrs Caloon said.

"I actually filmed his behaviour. It got so bad because he used to wake up and go straight on to the Playstation.

"I just wanted to smash it.

"At one point, my husband took his headphones off him and Dodge was literally more worried about what would happen to his Xbox than the fact he was getting into trouble."

The Caloons decided to limit Dodge's screen time about two weeks into the new school year and immediately noticed a difference in his behaviour and sleep quality.

Mrs Caloon said Dodge would ask to keep playing his Xbox until midnight at the peak of his addiction.

He would be told no, only to be found hours later to ask again.

Ms Caloon was at breaking point because when Dodge wasn't playing his Xbox, he would be gaming on his or her mobile phone.

"Now he's only allowed to use it for an hour after homework and then it's settle time and his sleep has gone back to normal," she said.

"Since we've restricted the time limit, he's done a 360. He's much happier and I've got my nine-year-old boy back.

"I think a big reason why parents struggle with limiting their kids' screen time is that there aren't a lot of activities for the kids to go to, particularly on the holidays."

Mrs Caloon said she worried about her son's behaviour returning during the next school holidays and hoped to engage him in as many activities outside of the home as possible.

"I run a kids' party business, so I want to get him involved in that to show him others way of using his time.

USQ Professor Stuart Biddle (Research Program Director in Physical Activity and Health) said there were many potential side effects for children who watched too much screen time before bed.

"My background as a researcher in healthy lifestyles has included a study for the last 15 years or so around the use of screens and how they can affect you," Professor Biddle said.

"When it comes to sleep, the issue of looking at these screens late at night and the light exposure to eyes could possibly be creating poorer quality and shorter sleep.

"There's something also called sleep hygiene which relates to how good you are at sleeping and although I'm not a real expert in that area, there is research to show that screen time can be a disruption to this, as well as too much thought processing or stimulation when you should be shutting yourself down.

"The most important thing in terms of my research is whether or not your screen time is restricting opportunities to be physically active and if that's the case, you might have more lethargy and sleep worse."

Professor Biddle said there were guidelines available regarding how much screen time was appropriate for certain age groups, but that it wasn't always so black and white.

"There are some guidelines but they might be completely unrealistic in our current climate as they suggest no more than one hour per day for children aged two to five," Professor Biddle said.

"The issue with that is these days we have mobile forms of technology, so screens could involve your phone and knowing how to judge what you're using it for gets complicated."

For more information about recommended guidelines for children and screen time, visit the Department of Health website.