Sunday, January 22, 2012

{ unplug } What Happens When Mom Unplugs Teens for 6 Months?

{ by } Vicki Panaccione
{ source } Ezine Articles, 2011.02.16
{ topics } unplugging, rediscovering,
hobbies, focusing, relationships

Unplugging really can have a remarkable effect on the whole family. And after a while, they don't seem to miss the electronics. Aren't willing to unplug for the long haul? Then here are some suggestions for adding unplugging into your regular routine.

There isn't a parent I meet nowadays who doesn't complain about the amount of time his or her children spend using electronics. These range from electronic hand held games, to iPods, to cell phones, Internet and TV. Just imagine what your life would be like if your children were unplugged!

Well, that's exactly what Susan Maushart did! { see previous article: 'I took my kids offline' } A NY mother of 3 teenagers (ages 14, 15 and 18) decided she'd had enough. Like so many teens, they did their homework while simultaneously listening to music, updating Facebook and checking text messages. Instead of laughing when amused, they actually said "LOL" aloud. Her daughters had become mere "accessories of their own social-networking profile, as if real life was simply a dress rehearsal (or more accurately, a photo op) for the next status update." So, for six month she took away the Internet, TV, video games, all electronic hand held games, iPods and cell phones.

And what do you think happened? She and her kids rediscovered small pleasures--like board games, books, lazy Sundays, old photos, family meals and listening to music together instead of everyone plugging into their own iPods. Furthermore, her son (addicted to electronic hand held games and TV) began filling his spare time playing saxophone. Her eldest rediscovered the library where she went when she needed the computer to do her schoolwork. Her youngest had the most difficulty and packed her things to go live with her dad for a while. When she returned, she spent hours on the home land line phone as a substitute for text messaging and Facebook. Although very unhappy without her electronic hand held games and other devices, her grades improved substantially!

Now you may be thinking that six months of being unplugged is totally unreasonable. And, I would agree. However, periods of unplugging all electronic hand held games, cell phones, video games, TV and Internet can have a very positive effect on the relationship you have with your children.

I work with many parents who use loss of electronics as a consequence for misbehavior. And although their kids are initially really angry and miserable, within a couple of days there is a remarkable change. Instead of being holed up in their rooms with all their electronics, they wander out into the family room and actually talk! The family rediscovers board games, puzzles and evening bike rides. Some children actually tell me that they like being unplugged because it keeps them focused and takes away their temptations. Kids seem to become happier, more interactive and more creative. A discarded guitar is re-tuned and lessons requested, the skateboards are greased up and play dates are scheduled. The Legos come back out, as well as arts and craft supplies. Unplugging really can have a remarkable effect on the whole family. And after a while, they don't seem to miss the electronics.

Aren't willing to unplug for the long haul? Then here are some suggestions for adding unplugging into your regular routine:

  • All electronic hand held games, cell phones and iPods should be left in another room during meal times. This goes for whether eating at home, at someone else's house or at a restaurant.
  • Turn off all phones, including the land line, during meal time and other family time, such as when playing games, watching a movie together, during homework time and so on.
  • All hand held electronics need to be off during time in the car--with the exception of long car trips. This also goes for the DVD player installed in the car. Turn car rides into time to talk, tell jokes, sing songs, play 'I Spy,' the Alphabet Game or 20-questions.
  • If you want to listen to music in the car, turn on the radio and let each child have a turn picking the station or selecting a CD. Sing along, or ask your kids why they like this particular song, the artist and so forth.
  • Make a rule that there is no gaming allowed on school days.
  • Set time limits for days they are allowed to use their electronic hand held games and other gaming systems.
  • Recognize that kids today maintain friendships, unfortunately, through their electronic devices. So, give them reasonable amounts of time to interact with their friends and then specify the time at which they need to be turned off and turned in to you for the night.
  • Only allow your kids to have any form of electronics in their rooms if you can absolutely trust that they follow the rules about their usage. If not sure they are complying, take the devices out of their rooms and allow them to earn them back by earning your trust in other ways.
  • Ear buds need to be disengaged and fingers need to be off the cell phone keypad when conversation is going on, or you need to talk to your child about something.
  • Eye contact must be made when engaged in conversation.
  • Be a good role model by being present to your kids when talking together and giving them your undivided attention, rather than multi-tasking.
  • Set aside one day a week (or a month if weekly would be a hardship) as a totally unplugged day, or at least a screen-free day. Allocate a specific time that all family members need to be present and accounted for to spend time together.
  • Bring the old board games down from the top shelf of the closet, dust them off and get ready to reintroduce them--and yourself to your family members.

When all electronic hand held games, iPods, TV, cell phones and Internet are unplugged, families have an opportunity to rediscover other activities-and each other!

Enjoy your kids!

Dr. Vicki Panaccione has been called, "The World's Expert in Parenting," and "The Oprah Winfrey of Families." She is a passionate and dedicated child psychologist, award-winning author, speaker, media personality and parent coach committed to helping parents raise happy, successful kids...and enjoy the ride!

{ related posts } 'I took my kids offline' 

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