The days of kids playing outside or making up games, on their own, to play with their siblings and friends are long gone. It is in this way that I, and many others, believe that our children’s creativity and imaginations are being stifled and, even worse, eliminated altogether.
We now live in a world that craves more and nothing is ever enough. Our 8, 10 and even 15-year old children throw temper-tantrums when we tell them that they are not getting that new video game. Children as young as 5-years old now have cell phones and they talk about other children, their age and older, whose parents have chosen not to buy them one. This is ridiculous!
Don’t get me wrong, technology is the way the world is going in and I am an advocate for our little ones staying knowledgeable and in the fast lane dealing with this. However, I also feel that it needs to be controlled because technology addiction, even among children, is a reality.
I began noticing this new form of “addiction” years ago but never actually experienced it myself until my now 10-year old daughter started to get a bit irritable just being around her siblings. One night, after slaving over a hot stove, I called the kids downstairs for dinner. I prepared their plates, sat them on the table and then stepped out of the kitchen for a moment to answer a call or send a work email, can’t remember which.
When I came back in and proceeded to sit down at the table, I noticed that there was no one at the table and that my children had each gotten their plates and went into the family room and other parts of the house. At this time, each of my children had hand-held video gaming devices, access to 2 laptops, tablets and a cell phone that the older girls each shared. This is when I realized that I had contributed to this because of my desire for my kids to not be “left out” and to be “in the know”. I was contributing to my children barely saying 2 words to each other, let alone myself, and I was not happy about this.
This family was becoming the family I grew up in as a child and it was not at all what I had envisioned for my family to be. I wanted to communicate with my children but I noticed that I had given up control and stop really even trying to have a relationship with my kids. I blamed it on the stress of being a single working mom and not having enough time and all these other things but I purposely allowed my children to become more engaged with gadgets than with having a real conversation with me and their siblings. When I began to own that…I was able to really move forward and make change happen.
The change did not happen overnight, not by a long shot. It happened slowly and sometimes I just wanted to give up and let the gadgets continue to have my children but I kept pushing forward. It probably would have been easier had I had someone in my corner, rooting me on and telling me that the end results would prove to be worth the proverbial “blood, sweat and tears”.
The main changes that I made were not that drastic. I didn’t take away and destroy all of the technology in my home or tell my children that they could not be on these objects. The only thing that really changed was the amount of time we used our gadgets each day. We established a couple of new “traditions” in our household. One was simply that, each night, we now sit down and eat dinner TOGETHER and we do not bring our cell phones, tablets, video games, laptops or any other form of technology to the table. This has helped us to be able to reconnect in numerous ways but, most importantly, has aided in how we communicate with one another and show our love and gratitude through our words.
The other “tradition” is that we take at least one day each week to not do anything more with technology than we need to. Most of the time this is a weekend day because during the week we all “need” technology in some way…whether it is my children who now have to research things online for certain projects and homework assignments or needing to respond to a last minute-urgent work email. There is almost no way to get around using technology during our week so we usually will keep Saturday or Sunday as our “No Technology Day” or severely limit the use of it for a few hours so that we can breathe, volunteer/serve, reconnect with each other and other people in our lives, and even do other things that we don’t get a chance to do when we are immersed in all of our technology.
This may or may not work for you and it may or may not be an issue for your family. If it isn’t, then congratulations for starting out on the right foot. You are among the few families that this has not become a problem for. However, if you or someone you know are struggling with technology addiction or if you would just like to learn more about this “new” mental illness, visit WebMD and HelpGuide.org for additional resources and information.