Help! My Child Won’t Put Their Mobile Device Down

Jun 09, 2016

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If your child has stopped talking and spends most of their time in that familiar pose “face in screen”, you are not alone.

Parents around the world are dealing with the same thing and wondering if they are doing the right thing by allowing their child so much screen time. It begs the question, what if it is more than just a really bad habit? What if it’s more serious….like an addiction?

Here are two alarming quotes from a recent article on CNN.com that made me stop and think.

  • 50% of teens and 25% of parents feel like they are addicted to their phones. - Common Sense Media
  • Nearly 80% of teens check their phones hourly; 72% feel the need to respond immediately. – CNN

Are you surprised? Is this how you feel every day? Technology addiction is a serious problem.

Kids are missing precious and pivotal moments that have long-term implications. Experiences with family and friends, time with Grand mom, once in a lifetime experiences, the “chance meeting” with just the right person, trips, important conversations and connections; all are experiences that cannot be replaced or replicated. How many of us can look back on life changing moments that happened because we were in the right place at the right time and opportunities may have passed us by? How many times have you felt an opportunity was lost because someone else was on their device while you were in their presence? Your children may not understand how quickly those times come and go, but you do.

What is a parent to do?

  1. Pay attention and set some limits - Addictions do not happen overnight. They take time. When screen time increases, pay attention. Do not wait until it is out of hand to address it. If you find that asking for the phone to be put away or if a punishment where phone time is cut off (or reduced) causes a major argument, you want to make changes immediately. Taking away the phone is not punishing them: you are asking them to be present in the moment and that is important. You are asking them to share, to laugh, to realize that they are an important part of the family. But that only helps when they are present, both literally and figuratively.
  2. Create sacred times and experiences - Create places where phones are restricted or aren’t allowed for ANYONE, not even you. There is nothing like laughs around the table as you share memories with family and friends. Those times are priceless, but those times are not automatic. You have to be intentional about being able to recognize them and take advantage of them when they happen. Look at old photos and talk about the times they capture, bring up old stories, and share precious moments. Make being in the room and being present what it really is: special. Do not miss out on fun moments that interaction without phones and computers can create. Those cute videos that we love and share are even more precious when they are yours. They may not make their way to YouTube, but not every moment has to. There are times in life meant for just you and your family. Keep those special times sacred, because they are.
    Start small, set aside thirty minutes a day or an hour a week when you decide that phones aren’t allowed, but make that time fun by including games or even treats like ice cream or other desserts.

CONVERSTATION STARTERS

  • What would you like to do this weekend?
  • What’s the best thing that happened today?
  • What did you have for lunch?
  • What’s your favorite tv show (and why)?
  • If you won $100.00, what would you do with it?

Make a decision to be present instead of distracted by the other things in the room that vie for your attention. It may feel awkward at first, but you may be surprised by the quality of interactions you create with your child.

If things are really bad or you feel ill-equipped, get professional help. There are professionals that can and will help not just your child, but also the whole family as you attack this issue head on. This problem is no laughing matter. There is nothing to be ashamed about. Knowing the difference between something you can deal with on your own and something you can’t is really important. Licensed professionals should be able to help you move ahead faster and they will also have the tools necessary to help make long term changes that stick. Addictions can be cured with the right effort and team behind you.

3. Make connecting in real life a family affair: Try having a family movie night, game night, or heart to heart chats.

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Be intentional about creating more connection time. In a way, you are changing the culture of your family by valuing each other over the technology you use. To do this well, you may have to change your actions and activities to support an environment where relationships really matter. Get creative and make it a family affair where everybody has a role and every person’s part is important. In addition, understand what they are looking at and what they get from always being connected. Identifying problems like loneliness, bullying, and depression can be really helpful when you are addressing the issue of technology addiction.

Remember,technology is filing a void. Understanding what is missing can be incredibly helpful as you seek to address this issue. There are things you can do when you understand the root of the problem that will save you tons of time and energy. If you understand that technology is creating a safe place for your child, you can work on creating a safe place in reality instead of the virtual one. The information you get by understanding can make things so much easier and it can also create opportunities that wouldn’t exist otherwise.

One of the biggest challenges with addiction is that you never realize how much it costs you until after you experience it. By addressing this issue head on and taking it seriously you can create a brand new story that will strengthen your whole family. Often the challenges in our lives create the best opportunities if you are willing to take advantage of them. An addiction like this can open up new channels of communication and help you and your family create a much more intentional and meaningful life together.