Do you ever feel like your child's cell phone, MP3 player, game console, or computer has taken over your home? These devices can be wonderful tools for communication, learning, and healthy enjoyment, but they can also become dark and destructive without the necessary parental supervision and limits.
Although the basics of parenting remain the same, issues involving technology have left many parents wondering what limits are appropriate, how to hold their children accountable for misuse of technology, and how to help kids learn the decision-making skills required to make healthy technology choices when they leave home.
There’s good news! Even though these modern issues are very challenging, we can achieve success by applying some age-old parenting truths:
- Focus mostly on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.
- Kids need limits.
- Limits are best set through actions instead of hollow threats.
- When kids make poor decisions, they need to experience natural or logical consequences.
- Consequences are always more effective when provided with loving empathy.
- Our kids will learn how to live their lives by watching us.
Set Enforceable Limits
Children under five should spend almost no time playing video games, computer games, or watching television. This also applies to educational games and shows. Older children shouldn't spend more that 15-30 minutes per day engaged in these activities. Wise parents set the following limit:
I allow video games, computer games, or TV in our home
only when they are causing no problems.
Wise parents also don't hesitate to remove these items from the home when "problems" begin. Listed below are a few examples of the enforceable limits that we, as parents, can provide:
- You may have your computer in the living room, not in your room.
- You may have your tablet as long as there is no arguing when I ask you to shut it off.
- You may be on the internet as long as I'm allowed to review your internet history.
- Feel free to have a cell phone as long as you can pay for the service.
- You may keep your cell phone as long as you are not using it during meals, during conversations with the family, while driving, etc.
- I've encouraged your teachers to keep any cell phone they find you using during class.
- I allow kids to use technology in our home as long as I feel that they are being respectful and responsible.
- I’m shutting my phone off so that I can give you 100% of my attention. Thanks for doing the same.
We can't control what our kids do when they are away from home, but we can set good, solid limits when they're under our roofs. If they protest saying that you don’t trust them, you can reply, "I don't even trust myself. Lots of really good people get in trouble with technology. That's why I always make sure that your dad/mom knows what I'm doing on my computer, too."
Understand that Electronic Games can be Extremely Addictive
I'm very, very concerned. Everywhere I go at least one person tells me the same sad story:
He plays video games nonstop. That's all he wants to do. As soon as he gets home, he goes into the bedroom, shuts the door, and starts playing his video games. When I ask him to shut them off, he ignores me or flies off the handle. And forget about getting him to do any chores! All he thinks about is his games.
Because most of these games operate according to variable schedules of reinforcement (the user cannot entirely predict when something exciting will happen) our kids get hooked into playing "just a little bit longer" each time.
Even educational games present these risks. To grab the attention of the learner, electronic games for kids are highly entertaining and stimulating. Is it any wonder that kids who spend too much time glued to these games find everything else boring?
Real life is always a downer when you're hooked on electronic uppers.
Do you have a loved one who's obsessed with playing video games? Do you feel that your family is going down the tube as a result? I'm often asked, "How can I tell if my child (or my spouse) is addicted to gaming?" Perhaps the simplest test is to ask them to stop for a week. That's right! Just ask them to take a break and put their video games aside for one short week.
Here's what to look for:
- Does the person get defiant and refuse to take a break?
- Is the person willing to take a break yet becomes exceptionally irritable, depressed, or bored during that time?
- Do they lie to you about sneaking game time during their break?
If you see any of these classic withdrawal symptoms, you can rest assured that your loved one has a serious problem that will lead to serious consequences if left untreated. My advice is three-fold:
First: Don't deny or minimize the problem. Know that it can destroy your family if you don't take action.
Second: Listen to our audio, Healthy Kids and Families in a Technology-filled World.
Third: Get qualified professional help if your loved one refuses to live by the limits that you set over their gaming.
The symptoms of withdrawal that are also indicative of the addictive nature of these games include irritability, extreme moodiness, and attempts to get a "fix," even if it requires manipulating and mistreating those who love you the most.
My Healthy Kids and Families in a Technology-filled World is our latest product to address technology use and it can help you raise kids to do the right thing, even when you aren’t watching! It provides five principles for maintaining loving and respectful relationships while preventing unhealthy power-struggles and sneakiness.
Thanks for reading!