Are My Kids Addicted to Technology?
What Happens When We Take Electronics Away From Kids?
Have you ever noticed how quiet kids are when they're on electronics? Whether they're using an iPad and watching a show or playing a game on the T.V., my kids are focused and have what I like to call "T.V.-mush brain." It seems like they're so intensely focused on the game that they could sit like that for hours not moving at all. This is often to our benefit at a restaurant, when waiting in a long line, or at other times when it's convenient for parents to have their kids be quiet. They become these little blank-faced zombies, and while I do like a quiet house and children that aren't fighting, we've had some really cool things happen when I've taken the electronics away, and they've had to entertain themselves in other ways. What started as a weekend detox (no electronics of any kind), turned into the kids no longer asking to use the iPad/tablet, and they would just play and get creative.
We've since gone back to using electronics, albeit more sparingly and more contentiously, but what I learned over those few weeks is worth sharing!
Just How Much Media Do Children Consume in a Day?
According to techaddiction.ca: "In a typical day, children consume just over three hours of media. This includes computer use, cell phone use, tablet use, music, and reading. Two thirds of this time is spent with “screen media” (TV, computers, the Internet, etc.) while reading is less than 20 minutes per day."
Is My Child Addicted to Technology?
This is an ugly question that often has answers we don't want to bring up, but it's worth considering.
A few signs of technology addiction:
1. Lack of interest in non-electronic activities of any kind.
2. Problematic behavior when unable to access the internet or digital devices.
3. Withdrawal symptoms like seeming anxious and agitated without electronics and then calm again when they have electronics.
4. Constantly talking about screen time, and what they do while online.
5. Being short-tempered with others and unwilling to share their electronic device with others.
Tips For Using Less Electronics
- Start small, reduce the amount of overall screen time. (Or monitor more closely to see just how much screen time is being had).
- Set specific and clear limitations on when/how long electronics can be used.
- Provide a few suggestions that children can do instead of electronics.
- Take the kids to play outside at a playground or park.
- Play a game as a family to encourage game time in person without electronics.
What to Do When Kids Say They Are Bored?
What Happened When We Did An Electronic Detox For 7 Days
As a result of our son making a bad choice at school, we removed his tablet for the weekend and this is what started our unintentional electronics detox. This was just a detox for the kids as I needed to use my phone and computer but the kids, who would normally watch tv with breakfast, play on tablets after school or video games on the tv, now had time to do other things! After seeing the improved behavior in my kids over just a weekend with no electronics, I decided to continue our electronics ban for an entire week!
The first morning without a show to watch, the kids were both annoyed and grouchy. Thankfully, I had already planned ahead and pointed to the books on the kitchen table where the kids were sitting and said if they wanted to look at a book they could, or they could talk to each other, or look at the cereal boxes in front of them. Despite both of them balking at my suggestions, I went about my morning routine and they eventually both started flipping through books. They went off to school and our morning was a little less loud than it usually is, but was otherwise mostly the same. When they got home from school, the iPad and tablet were conveniently out of sight and when they asked for them, I reminded them we were taking a break for the week.
In full disclosure, the kids were frustrated at first, not understanding why I was taking away their beloved electronics, but once I explained that we had so many awesome other toys to play with, they eventually busied themselves in other ways. It did take a while for them to just play as strange as that sounds. My 8 year old walked around the house aimelesly, complaining of being bored and having "nothing to do". I reminded him that if he didn't want to play with any of the toys in his room, we could donate them to another family with kids that would surely be happy to play with them. I only had to take about 3 steps towards his bedroom before he decided that he'd find something to do before I started taking the toys away. The house got both noisier and messier as the kids played and figured out what they wanted to do, but I contented myself with the thought that the kids were benefiting much more than sitting in front of a screen for several hours being zombies doing mindless games.
By Friday morning, the kids didn't even ask to watch a show at breakfast time and the morning went much more smoothly than it did on Monday. It was like a spell was broken and they knew they could do other things than watch a show or play a game on a tablet. They made forts, played with toys they hadn't in a while, had more pretend play, and mostly played nicely with each other. They both got in more reading time and I was even able to put out homework, sight words and writing practice for my kids that they would happily work on as they ate their breakfast! Goodbye afternoon grouchy time as the kids try and work on homework as I make dinner!!
Would you or do you ever do an electronics detox with your kids
Good Things About Technology Today
For all of my negatives about electronics and how we need to restrict how much kids are on them, I don't want to make electronics to be these horrible things that we should never allow our kids to be near. There are some really great learning apps and programs that kids can benefit from using. Our kids school has a few they even recommend for the kids to work on for sight words, math, reading comprehension and other subjects. Electronics definitely aren't all bad. I think it's just important to know what your kids are doing and to give them some restrictions on how much time they spend in front of a screen each day.
Lessons Learned From Our Electronics Detox
So after 7 whole days without watching tv or playing games on a tablet/ipad, you may be wondering what happened next? Firstly, the kids survived, despite their initial feelings of woe and melancholy. We did give the kids back some screen time but with more time limits and less frequency. We no longer watch tv with breakfast as it's a great time to talk about our day ahead, work on homework, or even just to quietly wake up while reading the cereal box! My kids now know that all their homework, piano playing practice, and chores need to be complete before they can sit around on electronics and even then I will set a time limit so they don't play too long.
We are more lenient on the weekends and allow the kids to do more with electronics, but most of the time with school, after school activities, homework and chores, the kids don't get much screen time during the week. We also no longer allow the kids to mindlessly play on phones when we're out at a restaurant. I know eating out is tricky, especially when you have multiple kids or younger kids and you just want to eat out every once in a while. For us with a 5 and 8 year old, they can sit patiently, draw on their kid placemats with the provided crayons, and I usually have a puzzle or cards in my purse to keep them entertained. This has worked well for our family and other electronic restrictions may work for your family.
Good luck if you do an electronics detox with your family and I wish you all the best!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2018 Lisa Auger