I Just Can’t Get My Kids Off the Screen!

Don't Just Say "No." Say "YES!" Too!

National Screen Free Week in the United States this year is April 29 – May 5th. You’ll likely be inundated with lots of statistics and negativity surrounding the increasing use of technology in our culture. These messages might make you feel like taking a hammer to all the screens in your home and yelling, “Not in OUR house!”

It’s with good reason parents want to say “No!”. There’s the research about what’s happening to kids’ brains on technology. There’s the nature of the stuff they see. There’s the issue of who they connect with when they are online. There’s the powerful allure of “pay for more power” games. Statistics often give all kinds of detail about the ills of kids using too much technology. Much of this info gives good reason to “Just Say No!” and we encourage parents to keep firm limits on their kids’ technology use.

A funny thing happens when we just say “No!”

We’ve learned from hundreds of parents coached at Connected Families that when parents are forceful about just saying “No!!” it makes the denied privilege even more mysteriously desirable to their child. This is a key reason many families are stuck in angry power struggles over screens, as kids get the message, “I’m against you and what’s important to you.”

When parents are forceful about just saying “No!!” it makes the denied privilege even more mysteriously desirable to their child.

With as much as parents are trying to say “No!” you’d think we’d have this problem under control by now. On the contrary – kids are spending more money than ever on technology. How can this be?

Two key factors complicate the situation:

The first is that technology is necessary. For kids to keep up in school they need (and in many cases are given) current technology. So they are allowed access but then we find ourselves frequently fighting the lure of all the non-school related uses that frequently distract them.

Secondly, tech companies are working hard to capture the attention of young minds. This might be one reason that there is a move among Silicon Valley executives to greatly limit or even ban their kids from technology at home. These parents are seeing firsthand…how much time and effort goes into making digital technology irresistible. So they are making the conscience decision to keep their kids screen-free as much as possible.

Good things happen when we have a bigger “Yes!”.

We feel strongly that the answer is not just to say “No!” to technology but to offer an appealing “Yes!” of three-dimensional experiences. This requires the whole family (parents included) to slow down and think outside the box:

  • Does your family have a board game night?
  • Do you involve your kids in baking and making meals?
  • Do you play outside most days? (Or even break out the Nerf guns?)
  • Do you ask creative questions at dinner with all screens off?
  • Do you invite other families to your home and teach kids how to make people feel welcome?
  • Screenagers website lists LOTS of creative ideas!

God designed our brains to thrive on 3-D fun and interaction. If we’re going to tackle this difficult issue of kids’ technology obsession and compete with the highly addictive quality of screens, it helps to have lots of creative ideas for engaging real life activities for kids. One family we know had a brainstorming session to come up with 30 screen-free ways to have fun, and they spent the summer checking items off the list.

When we say “No” to technology, working hard to enthusiastically say “Yes” to alternatives communicates the vital message: “I’m for you, not against you!” This helps keep our hearts connected to our kids as we guide them through this challenge. Instead of attempting to control through intimidation and punishment, we lead our families with grace.

The biggest YES is a sense of purpose!

In Christ we’re given a whole new reason to live – a purpose of destiny – to be a blessing to the world around us. This is the biggest “YES!” of all! Which is why, at Connected Families, we encourage parents to help their kids discover and use their gifts to bless others. When kids discover their “Big YES!” they are far less enticed by the lure of their favorite screen.

We teach the value of the Big YES in our Entitlement Fix online course (available for small groups too), and we talk specifically about the Big YES for screens. When people are living out a life of purpose, they are more able to fight the distractions and temptations that are present around us every day, including smartphones and video games. They are living out who they were created to be!


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