What you can do if your child is addicted to their screens

Parents welcome technology devices in the home as helpful tools - who doesn't want a homework assistant, a boredom killer, or a digital babysitter?

But without parameters, technology is like the unpleasant house guest who overstays their welcome, while eating everything in the fridge.

Research suggests the average child spends more than six hours on screens each day.

Health experts say excessive amounts of time spent on smart phones and tablets can be addictive and affect childhood development.

So how do parents help reform their children's technology habits?

Health experts say excessive amounts of time spent in front of screens can affect childhood development. Source: Sunday Night

Brad Marshall from Kidspace, an internet addiction clinic based in Sydney, has witnessed the damage screen addiction can have on Australian families first hand.

He told Sunday Night about a simple sign that parents can look out for to see if their child is addicted.

"If your child is using one of these apps or games to the exclusion of wanting to go outside, or to the exclusion of wanting to go to a party or going to sport or going to bed, then you have got an issue on your hand," Mr Marshall said.

However, Mr Marshall firmly believes the addiction can be treated with specialised therapy.

"The therapy has three main phases. The first phase is interacting and trying to build rapport with the child and the family. It's very important to try to understand what the teenager is doing online."

Brad Marshall from Kidspace, an internet addiction clinic based in Sydney, has witnessed the damage screen addiction can have on Australian families. Source: Sunday Night

"In the second phase, we are looking at a treatment phase where essentially we're trying to increase communication in the family. We put in place a behaviour management plan or an internet usage plan.

"The third phase is when we look to back off so I step away a bit, hoping that the parents will step in and problem solve a bit better in future."

And the specialised therapy seems to be working well. Brad said: "Roughly speaking about 60% of families or children we have treated show significant improvement over time. There is about 20% that show what we would call mild to moderate improvements."

Research suggests the average child spends more than six hours on screens each day.

Screen addiction is not just brand-new territory for parents but for Australian addiction specialists too.

"We do the best with what we have got and at the moment the research is quite lacking and we are scrambling a little bit to try and keep up.

"As technology evolves we don't really know how that is going to impact on children and teenagers and families and I think it's a giant game of catch up for us because every time there is a new development in technology, it's a new barrier for us to try and help families."

If you believe your child may be addicted, click on the Kidspace website for more advice.