How to Peel Your Kids off the Screen

A refreshing approach to an exhausting challenge

It’s halfway through the summer, and you’re finding yourself in power struggles over screen time with your kids. “Why can’t they simply obey me and get off those stupid screens without whining, complaining, and negotiating? It drives me crazy!” A reasonable question, but there are a couple of key complicating factors:

  1. You’re up against a giant. Your “foe” is a whole industry with incredibly brilliant researchers, designers, programmers, and marketers with billions of dollars competing in a contest to “capture the eyeballs” of youth. In a famous statement at the height of MTV’s popularity, Bob Pittman said, “We don’t shoot for the 14-year-olds, we own them.”
  2. Your anxiety and anger are contagious. Because of how powerless parents feel against their children’s screen obsessions, they often engage full of anxiety about it (“Will my kid ever get a life, or will he just live in my basement playing video games forever?”) and anger (“I’m soooo sick of this fight!”). When kids sense these emotions and judgments, the conflict escalates.

Knowing this, how can you overcome those factors to effectively guide your child?

Online Gaming Addiction

The Long Road of Recovery from an Addiction to Minecraft

Problem of Online Gaming Addiction

Online gaming addiction is real.  If you read the post about creative ways to nurture healthy boundaries around screen time for younger children, you may be shaking your head saying, “My kid is beyond that point…he is addicted.”  Perhaps anytime you attempt to corral efforts at managing online gaming, you run up against a wall.  Maybe your child or teenager is moody, sneaking time online or is lying about her online use.  These and other symptoms are typical of an unhealthy online gaming obsession, according to WebMD. You need help with the battle to help your child break a habit that may have started out innocently enough, but now has turned into a full blown craving by which they seem to be enslaved.

You are not alone.  
Signs of video game addiction:

Here’s how one family started to help their son break his online gaming addiction as it had spiraled out of control:

Some kids can regulate their computer use with fairly minimal guidance. Dillon was not one of those kids. At fourteen, he was extremely intense, and obsessed with online interactive video games, especially Minecraft. He also played an empire building game that wasn’t as time-consuming but needed frequent daily attention.

3 Secrets to Grow from Screen Time Madness to Gladness This Summer

How One Family Began Managing Screen Time

 

3 Secrets to Screen Time Madness to Gladness

Are you feeling a little fear and trepidation about your kids’ free time this summer and the issues it brings?Summertime means long stretches of downtime. It also means that computer, television, and smartphone screens are an appealing way to fill that time for most children. Maybe you are a little worried about the seemingly inevitable clashes over technology and screen use. It can be hard to know how to pull little (and big) eyes away from the draw of the flickering screen and how to create some memories that will last and be more meaningful than anything an online experience can offer.  Managing screen time is a challenge for many families.

Brenda is a mom of three who follows our teaching closely. She shared this great story about how she dealt with technology obsession with the kids in her home.

Two summers ago we had such conflicts over screen time in our home it drove me crazy. My kids were determined to get their hands on some manner of glowing device – no matter what. I was equally determined they not rot their young brains with it, and the battle was on. So last summer I tried something bold. I told the kids there were no specific technology time limits for the summer. (Could that really work?!) You may even have a knot in your stomach reading about such a reckless plan. But it did indeed work incredibly well, and it’s our plan again this summer!

What were the secrets that made for such an amazing turn-around in this family’s screen time power-struggles using such a counter-intuitive approach? They are listed here in order of increasing importance:

3 Powerful Steps to Redirect a Bored Kid

video game girl bored kid

tony puyol | Flickr

A thoughtful parent wrote us with the following question:

How do I encourage my child to be more creative with his time? For example, not spending so much time on the computer or sitting in front of the television?

This is an important question to think through well since so many kids are being drawn into the virtual world these days. It’s not an all bad world, but definitely a world with quick access to trouble of all kinds.

How to Influence Kids’ Technology Use

Parents are constantly asking us about the best ways to manage their kids’ technology use. They generally want answers about what technology they can use to monitor and control things.

But kids are far smarter than most of their parents will ever be about using technology. So we very much agree with Dr. Charles Fay, lifelong Child Psychologist and parent educator who says:

“Real solutions to technology issues have little to do with technology… and almost
everything to do with relationships.”

Help Kids Handle “NO” by Getting Great at “YES!”

 

yes no boxes

baurka | iStockphoto.com

 

If you want your kids to respect and value your “no’s!” work harder on your “yeses!”

It’s good to teach kids the various “No’s!” in life. The best foundation for doing this is to help them habitually experience the resounding joy of the “Yes!”

For example…

  • If you want your children to say “no” to mistreating each other, create experiences — lots of them — in which they are on the same “team” having fun together. Celebrate the fun with them. Verbally affirm it: “You guys seem so happy when you’re having fun together.”
  • Or, if you want your children to say “no” to too much screen time, help them find ways to experience the joy of real-world experiences. If they like adventures, go on a hike or a camping trip. If they like movies, help them make one.
  • Or, if you want your kids to value saying “no” to too much unhealthy food, do lots of things to enjoy finding and preparing healthy food together.

The older they get the harder it is, so start early and often!

This parenting tip is sponsored by Karyn Wasylik and Jane Engel in honor of their wonderful, 97-year-old mother Marie Williams, for Mother’s Day. Learn more about sponsoring a parenting tip here.

When Life Gets Sucked Out of Our Family

Sometimes technology feels out of control. I am chief offender in our home. Two hours can pass and, if I’m completely honest, I don’t really remember much of what I did, saw, or believed was so important.

I recently came to realize that I was spending hours with various screens (computer, e-reader, phone, etc), as were my kids, simply because I was… BORED! Not that there weren’t other things to do, but somehow my life and the life of my kids was being sucked out of us with nothing to show for it.

Why Do Kids Obsess Over Video Games?

During my recent reading of “Boys Adrift” by Dr. Leonard Sax, I came across a letter that really grabbed my attention. The letter’s author is a 27-year-old doctoral student at Notre Dame — oh, and he’s addicted to video games.

I don’t think you understand the computer game phenomenon when you talk about it sapping the motivation of male 20-somethings. That’s only part of the picture. The other part is that computer games allow people to do things that feel as significant or important as the things they wish they could do in real lifeA teenage boy plays video games. but don’t see any way of doing. I don’t mean that people are playing Battlefield 2 because they wish they could be shooting lots of people. But they do wish they could be doing something that mattered. When they’re playing that game, they can, for a few hours, feel like they’re doing something significant.

When I started grad school, I had a rough first year or so. Many times I came home feeling like I was never going to be any good as a scholar, like I had no hope of ever actually doing anything significant, or making any serious contribution even just in the academic community. But I could turn on the computer and play X-Wing and feel like I was helping to defeat the Galactic Empire. If you want to feel significant, feeling like you just destroyed the Death Star helps for a little while. ….

…[T]here is also in many games beauty and adventure. In Morrowind, you can wander through a really beautiful, detailed, vivid world. Now I prefer reality. But I live in South Bend, Indiana. There aren’t lots of places to hike or even to walk. …

Of course I agree that people should stop wasting time in front of the PC/Xbox and go do something real. But in order to treat a problem it may be helpful to know something about how it seems to those who suffer from it.

Richard R., Notre Dame

From Richard’s letter, we can learn several important things about how to thoughtfully and gracefully talk with our kids about video games:

10 Screen-Free Ways to Have Fun With Your Kids

Ten Screen Free Ways to Have Fun With Your Kids

 

We have talked before about some “DOs and DON’Ts” of how to peel your kids off the screen. It may seem difficult to help your kids discover fun alternatives to their action-packed video games or TV shows, but it can be done! It will take some intentionality on your part, of course, but making the goal of a memory-filled summer in which relationships are enriched will be worth your time and effort.  Check out this list of ways to have fun with your kids — no screens required!

1. Play with your kids!

Everything listed below will dramatically increase in its value when you do it together with your kids.