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Expert advice

17th May 2024

‘My toddler throws tantrums if she doesn’t have a phone’



This is likely a concern for many parents

In the age of technology, it’s understandable that our phone usage may have a trickle-down effect on our children.

From educational games to entertaining programmes, screen time has all but taken over playtime.

One parent knows this reality all too well as they confessed to Newstalk the ways that technology has impacted their toddler’s behaviour.

The mum explained that her three-year-old has developed an ‘unhealthy’ attachment to phones.

“I have tried to avoid technology around my kids,” the mum told Moncrieff.  

“But my three-year-old was given my sister’s phone to play with when she was minding them for me.  I didn’t realise this for quite some time, so my three-year-old has now got this unhealthy fixation with phones. 

“Initially, it seemed she just wanted the phone out my sister sighed but now she screams the house down when she doesn’t get one of our phones. 

The mum continued: “My husband just gives in and lets her have his phone – how can I detach her from it?” 

In response to the parent’s concerns, child psychotherapist, Joanna Fortune, stated that the toddler has likely learned that if she screams enough, she’ll get what she wants.

“You have to put this in the developmental context because children this age are at that very stage of development when their job in life is to test every boundary we put down,” she said. 

“It is our job to hold those boundaries in place and teach them that screaming is not an effective form of communication or a means of getting what you want. “

The first piece of advice Fortune gave was to have a sit-down talk with her sister and husband so they can all come to the agreement that a ‘a three-year-old should not be having a phone’.

The psychotherapist recommended that the mum request that her sister not give her daughter a phone to play with while she’s in her care.

She also suggested redirecting the three-year-old’s attention elsewhere which will distract her from the phone by finding out what exactly she enjoys about being on a phone.

“I imagine it’s cartoons or something, so if she has cartoon time on the TV and it’s ring-fenced. 

“And otherwise, you’re taking things that might be character she likes playing with and you’re actually playing with them on the floor or giving her things that she can colour and paint. 

“You’re trying to take what interests her and branch it out from the phone into her play.”