5 Ways To Disengage Your Kids From the Screen
Many parents ask me what can they do so that their children do not surround their lives around electronic devices?
The first thing I say is that we have to realize that the new generations are not “adopting” a globalized system of communication, as we parents had to do it; the young people of today are “biological children” of this new era of communication. They do not know anything else, they can not compare (like us); then, this is their only reality. Adults can not see devices as “a plague” that is destroying society. It is just a New Era, from which we could all profit if we know how to use it.
With this mental framework, parents can regulate, manage, redirect, and even improve communication with their children. Yeap, as you hear it, we can use this Cybernetic Age to engage emotionally with our children.
Here, you have some suggestions:
Do I have the same addiction?
As always, in all my articles, I will start by saying that we can not demand that our children do what we are not capable of doing.
The first thing is to give a rationed and reasonable use to our own devices. If our children see us glued to our cell phones, laptops, or tablets all the time, can we demand that they not do so?
So, the excuse that we probably would give them is: “but I’m working, and you’re just playing!” Well, if we see it with a different perspective, it is the same. For them, “playing” is as important as work is to us.
My first recommendation for you is to try to reduce the time connected to your electronic screens and, to spend that time on more productive things, like interacting with people, reading (real books), exercising, writing (manually), paying attention to what is happening around you or just admiring nature. Perhaps the most important thing here is to avoid the need to fill every empty moment, by grabbing your cell phone to check again and again the same messages or any new ones you might have.
The Secret: Rewards, rewards, rewards
One of the reasons why all people (adults and children) get hooked with electronic devices is because the instantaneous responses they generate (“likes,” followers, comments, points, levels, etc.) produce biochemical changes in the brain, linked with the satisfaction centers, which in time, they become an addiction. The combination of immediacy and positive reinforcement is what’s called “instant gratification.”
If we want to reduce this addiction, the best way is to replace that instant gratification towards the electronics by another or others. Such as? For example, give your child immediate reinforcement every time she or he does a different activity other than be in front of an electronic screen. I would suggest using two types of rewards: verbal and material. Verbal, in the form of verbally expressing how pleased you are to see that he or she is doing something other than being connected to his or her devices, no matter what or for how long this is done.You can also express how good he or she is -or becoming- in whatever else he or she is doing. You will be surprised how much your child appreciates your verbal rewards.
Material rewards in the form of a points system, stickers, taking them to their favorite places, buying a toy that the child wants (no electronic devices … please!), allowing her to invite a friend home, etc. You know your child better than anyone, so you know what things can please them.
Now, at the moment, the child begins to make new associations of pleasure with other behaviors that are not the use of their devices, they will start to replace behaviors. The main challenge here: you have to be as consistent in rewarding your child for these new behaviors as a digital device can be…
There is nothing better to penetrate that mysterious world of your son or daughter than to learn his or her language. It is not easy, because that world is not only complicated, but it is developing too fast. But, if we manage to enter, it will give us a route of success to communicate with them in other planes. By achieving that communication, we will have more chances to encourage them to try new activities and, therefore, to move them away from the devices.
The next time you go in the car with your child, ask her things about a trendy video game; play in the car a song that your child likes and try to sing it along, put Youtube videos in your home with topics that your child is interested in (and you do not take your cell phone when it gets boring .. please). Other ideas might be to choose a series on Netflix that your child likes and show him or her that you are super hooked; learn the latest Fortnite dances and practice them with your child, take selfies with your children and use the latest cool apps, send messages to your children and say trendy words as “lol”. What I’m trying to say here is, enter into the world of your children … and do not expect them to join yours …Try it, and you will see!
10:00 pm. WIFI Lights Out!
The lights that you are going to disconnect here are the ones emitting from the colorful mini bulbs located everywhere in your house. The idea is that you turn off the wifi at a fixed time in your home. This measure, which seems arbitrary and typical of a boot camp, will serve many purposes: a) as a measure for yours and your family’s health: since the waves emitted by wifi and connected electronics are damaging our health and altering our brain functions b) as an indirect curfew, because once there is no wifi, and there is no way to stay stuck to the laptop or phone, it will become very boring and you and your children will have no choice but to fall asleep earlier c) as a safety measure: your children will be away from the online “night owls” predators that are connected when parents are not close. d) as an anxiolytic for you: you will be disconnected from emails and bad, late night news and your level of stress before sleep will decrease Many benefits, right?
Send your children away…
By sending them away, I mean to enroll them into programs where the use of cell phones or electronics is limited or prohibited, but at the same time, they are sufficiently entertaining and fun that your child can overcome the initial crisis of “delirium tremens” because they are not virtually connected.
My experience tells me that if children manage to awaken their natural socialization skills, that are numbed by the lack of use, and make friends in an environment that gives them security and acceptance, their addiction to the electronics is reduced to a minimum.
So, inquire about summer programs, after-school programs, internships, and trips of cultural exchanges, in which one of its regulations is the limited use of electronics.
You will realize that your child IS actually capable of managing his or her time.
These are just 5 recommendations that you can start implementing with the goal of helping you and your children achieve a healthy balance between the virtual and the real world.
I find this era of global communication so fascinating, but I believe that instead of becoming zombies by spending 9 hours a day contemplating and scrolling down our electronic screens, we can use it to make meaningful connections.
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