Some time ago I worked with a mom who, as a consequence for some
unpleasant behaviors, took away her 13-year-old son's cell phone
for three days. There was a scene with him (let's call him Scott)
with the usual retorts — it's not fair, you can't do that, it's MY
phone, and so on.
Forty-eight hours later he told her he was glad she took it away
from him. Hold the phone! I mean, wait a minute. What's wrong with
this picture? It turns out that there is everything right with the
Scott was grateful to be 'unplugged'. He felt relieved to not be
constantly, instantly connected to his friends. He had two days
of not being sucked into the drama of their lives, or having to
take sides. He even slept better. (You have no idea how many
teens come to school sleep-deprived and lethargic because they are
responding to texts at all hours of the night.) Of course, at the
end of the three days, Scott was given back his phone... and was
happy to have it. And he appreciated the experience.
Cell phones, video games, iPods and the Internet are here to stay;
however, the need for some down time, some quiet, unplugged time,
is crucial for mental, physical and emotional well-being. I could
have spent time looking for specific ideas about how to limit your
kids' time in the online world (see below for links to relevant
articles). But I want to bring you back instead to a foundation of
effective parenting — you are your child's most important teacher,
and it's up to you to model what you want them to do.
So I ask you, where are you when it comes to being plugged in? Does
it keep you from spending time with your family? Are you just
passing the time online? Do you text and drive? Do you have
trouble unwinding and falling asleep because you're glued to a
screen? What are you teaching them?
Your kids may think they can't live without their phone, but
sometimes what they really want and need is more of you. It's time to have
some 'low-tech' or 'no-tech" time for everyone. Take out the board games and the
basketball. Cook together, hike together. Do puzzles or go through old
photographs. Play mini-golf or have a joke night. The possibilities are endless.
This challenge won't go away any time soon, if ever. Your job is
to strike a balance. Help your kids to find the signs of life
beyond technology, and to enjoy the pleasures of being face to face
with the people in their lives. And while you're at it, do the
same for you.
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
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