Easy ways to deal with your child’s addiction to electronics
We are an electronically connected society, there is no way around it. Everyday we spend hours checking emails, tweeting on Twitter, posting photos on Instagram, finding new ideas on Pinterest and more- lots more. If your children are like mine, they are obsessed with games like Minecraft. And if they are like mine, they would spend hours on them, or YouTubing videos about their fave games. I have been known to confiscate all electronic devices and chase the kids outdoors when the weather is beautiful. And apparently, I am not alone….
Today is the official release day of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid Old School. I know this as my child is a huge fan and scored an early copy from the school Scholastic Book Club. Ironically, this Wimpy Kid book is about the main character’s mom petitioning to have an electronic-free 48 hours in their town. I already knew I was that kind of mom, so I was as eager to read this book as my children. Sophie Kinsella, my fave Brit Chick Lit author only recently penned her first novel geared for teens: Finding Audrey. The subject? Bullying and electronic addiction. And a pair of exceedingly cool nomadic bloggers I follow, Goats on the Road recently participated with a group of other bloggers, in a electronic-free 24 hours event. Also, I recently read an article about a man in Great Britian who is attempting to have an electronic- free footprint, giving up all of his social media accounts, smart phone and more. Our dependence upon the wired world has become such as issue that folks are beginning to take notice and fight back.
How do you know if your child is suffering from electronic dependence or even addiction? The answer to that is simple: when they stop living in the real world. Do their conversations focus on the on-line games they are playing and their virtual worlds? Do they even have conversations anymore? Are their grades sliding (but their gamer rank is rising)? Are they looking pale with bloodshot eyes from staring at a screen too long? Electronic addiction is not only a gamer problem, but too much TV, YouTube, even (gulp) Pinterest can be an issue. The good news is there are a few easy things you can do to deal with Electronic Addiction. But unfortunately, you have to switch off your own electronic reliant lifestyle to help cure your kids.
This is the part where my son will jump in and say that the 21st century needs to be wired, and I will counter back by saying, yes, but NOT ALL THE TIME. Too much of anything is bad for you, even exercise and (sob) dark chocolate! As the parent, you have the power to take control of the situation and reconnect with your kids. And here are some easy ideas to pave your way:
- Electronic -Free Meal Times. (This includes meals eaten outside the house!) Everyone: parents, guardians, aunts, uncles and even grandma included, turns off their devices and leaves them (in another room, in a bucket, somewhere where they can not be seen or heard vibrating). All meals should be electronic free. If I get a phone call during dinner, I quickly say I’ll call back later and hang up. Meal times with your family IS that important. Use this free time to engage in conversation. How was their day? if they complain about the food: what would their favorite meal be? What are your weekend plans? Who’s playing who in football? Gear the conversation towards your child’s interests (outside of their virtual world) and age level.
- The Daily Read. In the summer, I pose a switch-off 30 minutes of reading, where we all have our electronic-free (no TV, phones, anything) time. During the school year, their teachers assign them that 30 minute read for nightly homework. You can read about The Daily Read here.
- A Daily Walk. Walking daily will not only keep you healthy as a family, but help you to reconnect with your kids too! With only one gym class a day in school, usually 45 minutes, if they are lucky, your child has so much young energy to expend. Take them outdoors and leave those electronics behind! Adjust your times to fit your schedules and be safe. You can read about our Sunset Hikes here.
- A Family Game Night. Now I’m talking old school board games like Yahtzee, Trivial Pursuit, even checkers, Candyland or Chutes and Ladders. If you don’t have board games, invest in two packs of cards and learn Rummy or Trash, even Go Fish or War. Playing Charades only requires the people to play it! Set aside one night a week and an allotted time slot for this family event. You will be surprised at how fast your children start to look forward to a game night.
- Play Sports. You don’t need to belong to a team to play badminton, racquetball, basketball or soccer with your children. This is a good weekend tip. Find a park near you with a court, be it tennis or racquetball or basket ball, or purchase an inexpensive soccer ball from the dollar store for an impromptu front lawn game.
- No electronic night. Yeah, this is where my tough-love side comes out. If the kids have a lot of homework or just chores they need to do, I declare an electronic-free evening. No TV, no computer (unless it is homework) and no gaming. I confiscate all devices and tell them to work on their science projects or clean their rooms. No cheating on this one. School work comes first! There usually is arguing and resentment at first, but surprisingly this gives way to acceptance. I am doing them a favor, and you will be too.
- And speaking of which, my other tough-love act is the no electronics on a school night. This one I began to implement when one of my child’s grades started slipping. No negotiations. Kids like to rush through their assignments to get on with their gaming, and it becomes noticeable fast. When a child has reached that danger-zone, I confiscate their device and let my husband put it away where even I don’t know where it is- so no negotiations. They can have access to it on weekends after homework is complete. School grades then have to come up to standard before they are allowed said device on a school night. Parents can now have daily access their child’s grades to keep on top of this situation.
- Cold Turkey. This is the subject of that Diary of a Wimpy Kid book that I have yet to try out. Would you be willing to do a 48 hour electronic-free stint? Or even 24 like the Goats on the Road?