Although I am no psychic, I'm going to make a prediction. Within the decade there will be rehabilitation facilities that cater to gaming and social media addiction as prevalent as we have tutoring centers for today's students needing or desiring an academic edge.
A handful of programs already exist (though, to my knowledge, none are located in strip malls yet), and with the current amount of use our adolescents engage in, and the future teen generation already spending quite a bit of time in front of a screen, it doesn't take a genius to realize we are on a fast track to this type of service/program becoming the next psycho-therapeutic trend. And, I imagine, the [future] program will be centered around incrementally decreasing use of technology and reintegrating our kids back into the "real" world.
We could save ourselves a lot of future time, money, and stress, by beginning to practice this today.
The reality is, if we don't become more conscious about how we're parenting our kids, we will have an epidemic on our hands as bad as the current drug addiction problem.
An epidemic of young people with low self esteem, anxiety, depression and an inability to effectively communicate as well as interact and navigate the real world.
That's no joke, or over-exaggeration.
I say this as much for myself, as the mother of adolescents who [I know] all too often spend more time than is good for them in front of a screen, as I say it for any other parent reading this blog.
Below is a recent, fascinating interview with Simon Sinek on why Millennials are having a difficult time in the work place. It is WELL worth your fifteen minutes to watch, guaranteed.
One of the things Sinek talks about are failed parenting strategies. For example, we've spent our time giving medals for participation to everyone, and telling our kids they could have "anything they want; just because they want it". An additional point Sinek makes is that the use of technology and social media has been the avenue for creating a decade of people with lower self-esteem than ever before.
Is it possible that we [moms and dads] are literally allowing, even helping, to create an addiction problem in our own homes?
The same chemical that excites us when we drink/smoke/gamble also gets triggered with social media/video game use. In my mind, we have no choice but to step up to the plate and practice regularly engaging our kids in everyday life and face-to-face connection.
I have some suggestions to get you thinking about what to do in your own families, these are a few of the things we do to engage with our own wonderful adolescents.
1. Play board games...maybe it's Friday nights, Saturday afternoons, or Sunday mornings at 10 a.m....pick a time that fits your family's schedule, but do it on a regular basis. Some of our most silly, fun family time is spent playing Apples to Apples! (If you like putting puzzles together this would be another idea.)
2. Dinner together, sans electronics, as often as possible. Even if it has to be take-out. That being said, cooking together is a great way to build connection as well. Just last week I asked Maddux to bake a cake because we had some dinner guests coming...this caused him to spend a half hour in the kitchen with me, and without being hooked up to his mini iPad. During that time we talked about our favorite desserts which led to a discussion on where and when we'd had said favorite dessert. Hey, 30 minutes is 30 minutes, right? Add clean up after cooking/eating and you've got at least 60-90 minutes of togetherness! Add music to the background if you like...on more than one occasion I have been seen dancing around the kitchen in the morning as the kids make their lunches. Yes, they roll their eyes and laugh at me at times, but it's all in good fun.
3. Invite another family over...eat and play board games!
4. Take a walk, I've found it's one of two of the best ways to get my kids talking. (The car being a close second). Get the dogs out after dinner, on a sunny Saturday afternoon...walking is a great way to get to know your kids and their interests better. (Even if you have to listen to a 10-minute summary of their favorite video game).
5. Plan your next family vacation together! Ask each member of the clan to come up with their dream destination and research it for a short presentation to the family. Will it require passports? Do you have them? If not, a trip to your local passport office (in the car, all together, without phone use) is in order!
Something I'd like to try, but haven't yet, is family meditation! (I can just see my husband and kid's eyes rolling...)
Look, I'm not going to belabor the point of WHAT to do to get your kids away from their screens and back into life. There is nothing I am saying here that is something you've never heard, or read over and over again. Balancing the use of electronics with activities that don't include screens is a no-brainer and our job as parents to model.
The hard part is holding ourselves accountable to this, but as the leaders in our families it is up to us to do it! WE are the adults in the situation and let's face it, we'll be the ones carting their low-self-esteemed-butts to the latest therapeutic-trending program in a few short years if we don't consistently take the time and put forth the effort to engage them in the real world.
So, who's with me?!
I'm curious, how do you balance electronic use in your home? We can all use good ideas, so share yours with us!