Leave alone your kids, could you survive a gadget-free week?

digital addiction for families and how to get over it- Parenting resources by ZenParent

I want us to take on a challenge, like the ones you see do viral rounds on Facebook. An experiment, if you want to call it that. A one-week digital embargo in your house to see what comes of it. You think you could? How  would you and your children deal with that extra time? How much of a headache would it be ? How much of a positive change would it make? And any future decisions we make for the family based on this experiment will be a conscious decision of media usage instead of the unconscious vortex we are caught in right now. Do you agree?

I will confess to having tried multiple times to restrain media usage but simply keep falling off the wagon- because, like I said, it is so darn convenient! “Mom, I am bored; Mom, What can I do,” and the biggest trick kids have, is to swamp us with questions when we are on the phone with our BFFs or working on our laptops! Easy way out? “Go watch TV!” When I hear stories of a few parents who say that they do not allow TV at home, I can only stare in awe at how they are able to swing it! I fantasise about whether I can totally unplug the TV during the week as an experiment and see how all of us as a family cope with that.

Today, it seems as though we cannot get away from technology. In schools, we have a wide range of policies. We have international schools where children bring laptops and are allowed to use Facebook on campus. There are also schools, like my daughter’s in Bangalore, that request parents to not allow children younger than 13 to have an email account, insisting that technology use be limited at home, while completely banning it on school premises. There are schools that allow cell phones, and those that have the kids turn in the cell phones on entering the campus. In this huge spectrum of media consumption, where do we want to stand with our kids?

Early this year, Taiwan passed a new law that bans kids less than two years of age to be exposed to any kind of digital device including televisions, phones, iPads, among other things. Parents who violate this rule will be fined up to 50,000 Taiwanese dollars (Rs. 1 lakh). The new rule also states that all children under 18 years of age should be allowed to use electronics in a limited manner, though what limited means was not specified. No other country has passed a law like this so far.

digital dependence- Parenting resources by ZenParent

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We all repeatedly hear of cyber bullying, how early exposure to too much TV wires kids’ brains differently, gets them used to fast-moving images and all the other detrimental effects of electronic usage. Some of these are depression, anxiety attacks, attention deficit, insomnia and other behavioural difficulties.  However, as parents we also find it convenient to just plonk them in front of a device in order to catch a break. That’s how it starts, right? Just a little break, and soon we find that our children don’t know how to keep themselves engaged other than watching TV or playing games on some device.

Yes, technology has its uses, no denying that. We have a slew of learning apps, online mentoring and who can deny the incredible advantages of using khanacademy.org or codecademy.com. These are wonderful tools that our children can use today that we did not have, growing up. But there are definitely days when my kids are hooked up so much to media that I worry they are going to have  “digital dementia”. (Actually defined by Manfred Spitzer (2012) as deterioration in cognitive abilities such as short term memory dysfunction due to overuse of technology)

There are very specific challenges to this experiment. First, I, as a parent should also stop watching TV during the week because my children will be up in arms if I said, I am the parent, I will watch whereas you cannot do the same. I have to walk my talk. If I am telling my children that they have to pick up a book and read instead of stare at the idiot box, I have to do the same. God knows I have four books on my book shelf that I have been wanting to read for the past six months but have not gotten around to doing so. But not just TV. What about my own internet addiction? It is easy to replace the TV with the internet these days. Am I as addicted as my children are?

So…. are you ready?

Click here to know how to spend quality time with your kids without getting them back to their gadgets.

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