I am sure you have seen an article or two about how smart phones, iPads and tablets are highly addictive for kids, teenagers, and adults. The reality is that devices have become a problem for all of us. I have witnessed this often first-hand, as a middle school teacher in a school where each student has an iPad. They often cannot control themselves, turning it on subconsciously. The average adult checks their device 50 times a day! And what’s worst: studies have found that phones and tablets are as addictive as cocaine, activating the same areas of the brain, resulting in children and young adults who are literally addicted to technology.
I have also witnessed this with my children. When I let the boys watch a tv show, when I turn it off, they move on and get back to playing. There is rarely an objection. However, if I let them watch a Youtube video or play an app or game, when I tell them to turn it off, 90% of the time it results in tears, screaming, and objections! I didn’t understand it, until I began to research the addictive nature of these devices. That’s when I realized that the iPad, while convenient when I was trying to make dinner, wasn’t needed. So, I decided to do a device-free summer.
Goodbye iPad – the First Week
My children didn’t use the iPad a lot – it was typically for a couple Youtube construction videos or a game or two, at most. But still, their addiction showed pretty quickly. I decided my best bet was to just take it cold-turkey, so I left the iPad at school for the summer. For the first week, my oldest (who is 5) asked me a couple times a day “Can I watch a video?” “Can I please watch a video?” “VIDEO, PUH-LEASE!” It was irritating, but nothing more. Both kids were easily distracted with toys or books.
It was a small adjustment for me. The biggest reason I had for giving my kids the device was because I needed to get something done. My husband works incredibly long hours, and I typically have to make dinner, do dishes, do house-work on my own because he isn’t around. I most often let the boys watch a video while I made dinner. I decided to invest a little money on a special “dinner-time” activity. Both my boys love construction, so I ordered them each a plastic bin (like I use for sensory bins), kinetic sand, and their own mini-construction kits. They loved it, and it was the perfect distraction to sit and play with while I made dinner.
Goodbye Devices – After the First Week
After the first week, I confirmed how happy I am with my decision. They never, ever ask for the iPad anymore. There are no more tantrums or tears when it is time to turn it off. The boys get an episode or two a day in the morning, and then we lead the rest of our day device-free. I didn’t realize that I was using the iPad as a babysitter. It was convenient for me, but it was addictive for them. I am not saying it will disappear for good, but it has felt good this summer to not have them being on a device. I have seen other pins on pinterest or on Facebook about people making their children earn device time, and I think this is great as well, especially for older kids! Have they done a chore, cleaned their room, read a book, colored a picture, played outside, played a game, etc? Then they can earn a device. This is a great idea that I hope to remember for the future as well.
Goodbye Social Media
Now, I am brining the challenge onto myself. It has made me realize how much I look at my own phone. It is so easy to mindlessly click it on, and check for messages or scroll Facebook. I don’t want to get rid of my phone completely because I do use it to communicate and it is how I take all my pictures, which I take a lot of. But, I have decided that pictures, phone calls, and messages are important, but social media is not. So, I have decided to try to beat my own device addiction and give up social media for July! My hope is that it will make me be more present, and also not so “click-happy” on my phone. Maybe the number of times I check my phone will drop from 50 down to much, much less!