Children as young as 13 being treated for screen addiction

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EXPERTS have warned that exposing children to electronic screens leaves them at risk of permanent damage.

The reSTART Life Centre near Seattle is the only treatment unit of its kind in the western world and helps youngsters with addictions to digital technology, including video games.

Its founder Dr Hilarie Cash told Sky News: “When you start handing these devices to young children and they’re distracted by the movement, the colour and sound coming from this device, that is mesmerising enough that it will override all those natural instincts that children actually have for movement and exploration and social interaction.”

She advises people of all ages to restrict their use of devices to certain scheduled times and says families should confront their worries about the increasing influence of technology.

“I think it is really important to come together as a family and talk about tech and how much is good, how much is ok and when does it start to interfere with family relationships, with responsibilities, with sleep, and many other things,” she said.

That advice would be welcomed by the Koch family in Los Angeles. Michael, 14, and Sophia, 7, are dedicated to their phones and tablets to a degree that concerns their parents.

Dad Robert Koch said: “I can punish him and say ‘If you don’t clean your room, this is going to happen’ and he doesn’t care but if I say ‘You don’t clean your room, I’m taking away your phone’ he has a nervous breakdown.

“It has come to the point where that is how you threaten a kid, you take away his data and he freaks out.”

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