The Power of Electronics

How to Unplug From Technology

Twenty years ago, we did not have access to the technology we have today. Forty years ago, cable was beginning to be more popular, although it originated in the 1940’s and 1950’s in Arkansas, Oregon and Pennsylvania, according to the History of Cable-CCTA.  I feel that this wave of technology and entertainment blew up in the late nineties through today … and it continues. Although this big tech boom can be great and beneficial for our lives, it also poses a problem with raising our children on so many levels.

Many parents who bring their children in for counseling are concerned with the amount of time their children have on their tablets, gaming systems, phone apps, and television. Children also come into the session sharing that their parents are often on their phones with Facebook, playing games or emailing for work.  It appears to be an issue with children as well as adults because most of what we do requires us to be “plugged in”.

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We are in a society where we are governed by rewards and punishments. It may not be rewarding to work, but the paycheck is. Working overtime is rewarded with time and a half. Behaving and following rules in school is rewarded by points and redeeming those points at the end of the week to pick a prize from the teacher’s treasure box. When we are late for work, we get reprimanded, late for school is a tardy on the child’s school record, misbehave in class, loss of points and less of an opportunity for the prize at the end of the week.  The common theme here is that there are rules in place for both adults and kids at work and school, in the community and society. The breakdown of these rules seems to happen in the home, where things are more relaxed, and we may feel we have more control of our lives.  This is where the power of the electronics comes into play.

Many people have shared in my office as well as in casual settings how relaxing it is to watch continuous episodes on Netflix. Children agree that fighting games and beating others in video games is rewarding and has a sense of release and accomplishment, which can also lead to anger and frustration when they lose. The key is the amount of time watching YouTube, Netflix and gaming can take away from the day and the things that need to be done. Although it is rewarding, there seems to be a negative consequence attached as well.

Food for thought

What did families used to do when they did not have TV and movies to watch? 

How did children entertain themselves when they had to travel in the back seat on a long drive out of town?

How did families entertain others when they had company?

How did people used to fall asleep prior to the TV being available at night?

Were families more productive prior to the tech boom?

Did they feel rewarded?

If you can take time to answer those questions, then you are beginning to see the changes that may need to be made in your home to reduce the power of the electronics. 

Time can be better managed when it is assigned

Think about your work schedule. There is a time to arrive at work, a time for meetings, deadlines for projects, time for lunch (if you make it) and a time for leaving (if you stick to it).  In the past the clock in for work, out for lunch back from lunch, out for the day, helped people manage their time better. Now with looser time constraints, its easier to lose time. If you have an agenda for the day and schedule in all that needs to be done with time limits, you can be more effective. This would include screen time.

Children’s school day is scheduled so that they know when math is, and lunch as well as recess and P.E. They know what time they come home and what time they go to bed. But they don’t always know what is supposed to happen in between. Having an agenda for them with times can help with structure and decrease frustration when they have to do something they do not want to.

Finding balance with screen time

What happens when we all come home from our busy day? Do you turn the TV on? Does mom or dad or even grandparents help with homework or dinner? Is there a time for the things that need to be done during the hours of arriving home and bedtime?

How about finding a balance with what needs to be done and the relaxation and reward of screen-time?

Some families have a rule of no electronics until home work is done. Others share that it is okay for a short amount of screen time prior to homework getting done to transition from school to home. Some feel that no electronics until the weekend. Where as all of these are great ideas, the decision needs to be made based on the way your child operates as well as your home.

Parents report that they cannot get their child off the screen to do the work. This situation may be improved by rewarding the child with screen-time after they have completed their homework and chores (with parent approval).

Parents report that homework takes so long, and they have more of a problem letting their child have screen-time late in the evening because of betimes. This situation may be solved by only allowing it on the weekends or limiting screen-time to a certain type of electronic. Maybe watching a 30 min show is better than beginning a game on Xbox that can take longer and increase frustration.

Parents report not being able to get their child off the screen without a fight. This may be alleviated by having the set times for the electronics. These times will change based on the electronic. This requires a better understanding of what they are interested in.  Knowing how long it takes to play a game on a game system is important to setting time limits, this can help the child also know which game they can play and which one they should avoid if they have a short amount of time. If the child only has 30 min on the tablet, but the video is an hour long, there could be a conversation about that. Conversations around all their electronics can reduce the amount of frustration for both the adult and child. Once expectations are discussed and understood, that can be the start to balance in the home.

Now, going back to what families used to do prior to this boom; watching movies together, family game night, going outside to play or walk as a family are a few things. If you can think of any others, great! That’s a start to unplugging from technology with your kids.