Does this sound familiar? A reader wrote:
Once my sons are on the computer or playing video games, I can’t get them to come to dinner or practice piano. They say they aren’t hungry, or that they have to use the computer to do their homework. What can I do?
Tech’s Taken Over
I often equate the adrenalin rush and enjoyment of video games (or their close cousins, the computer and Internet) to a heroin drip. Dramatic, I know. But despite the many wonderful things that technology has given us, there are addictive elements to it that are causing profound disconnection in families. Here’s my advice:
- Although you may not like hearing it, the solution begins with you, the parents. If your kids see you glued to your cell phone or iPad, they will think it’s perfectly reasonable to mimic your behavior. Are they watching you engage in conversation without stealing a side-glance at your smartphone? Do you take time to play music or read, or are you on your computer every spare moment? I often say, “Live like your kids are watching … because they are.” Take an honest look at how hooked you’ve become to your devices and take steps to unplug.
- Schedule a family meeting and tell your kids that if you have to call them more than twice for dinner or if you argue about starting homework, the next day they won’t be allowed to use whatever device made them late. Create guidelines that you’re willing to stick to and be prepared for tears.
- Have a family “unplugged” night once a week where no one uses their devices after 6 or 7 p.m. (This means any computer-related homework need to be finished early.) Have leisurely dinners with extended conversations. Play board games. Listen to your kids share the mundane matters of their day. Or just curl up in the living room with books, reading a favorite passage to one another now and again. It sounds terribly old-fashioned, but one of the best ways to teach kids to become less device-dependent is to promote family activities that don’t require electricity.
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