Here’s how to beat your kid’s screen addiction.
I know, I know. It seems preposterous. But I’ve done it. I’ve solved my child’s screen addiction.
Let me warn you from the start: it’s not pretty. If you get a little woozy from horror movies, heights, or blood, you might think that this is along the same lines and you should just stop reading now. You’ve been warned.
Let’s set the scene …
It’s a Sunday. Morning. I’m up early because that’s just who I am. Next in line is usually my 12-year old. His favorite weekend past time is to avoid me (you’ll soon learn why … ) and get on a screen and hide. Usually back in his bed.
It’s a beautiful day. We now live in The Netherlands and let’s just say we don’t wake up every day of the year and shout from the rooftops “What beautiful weather!” It’s also Sunday and we have no plans. Nothing. Nada. No plans. Wow.
My wife has to study all day. My 14-year-old has plans to, hold onto your hats, get out of the house and go to a pool with his friends in the neighboring town.
The challenge is what I’m going to do–and what that 12-year-old who’s already hiding out with his iPad is going to do.
Here are our options:
- Continue as is. That is: on screens. Probably forever. Until his stomach growls from hunger.
- Do something other than a screen, but stay at home.
- Go somewhere.
That’s about it.
#1 is what often happens until late morning, early brunch, sometimes lunch–but never at dusk!* It’s usually because I’m also happily enjoying a Sunday morning. It lasts until someone, usually me, gets fed up and then goes on a screen-free blitz threatening to smash screens and … have lunch.
#2 is pretty easy and a bit of a cop out. Sure, we could do something “productive” but just the pull of the screen nearby is a killer. Frankly, it’s not worth it.
#3 is pretty much the only option to rid youths of screens and, well, uh, parents too. I announced that we were going to bike to the lake. I counted at least 7 reasons we shouldn’t do this. I listened to them all and, in silence, continued to gather up sandals and checked his back wheel’s air pressure.
We took off, forgot several items, and from that moment on there was no mention of screens. At all. Here’s what we did instead:
- Biked 15 kilometers through the woods.
- Talked most of the way.
- Stopped for drinks on the side of the road.
- Arrived, decided to walk over the bridge to the island.
- Got into the water. I froze, he was fine. He made fun of me.
- We read our books. OK, clarification: I read my book. He played in the sand.
- We build a drip sand castle.
- We went into cold water again.
- We had some snacks.
- We played Gin Rummy.
- We walked over the sand bar to the other side of the lake.
- We biked home through the evening sun, under the trees, and made it home and …
Got on a screen.
But that’s OK! No, really! I’m not anti-screens 24/7. Not at all. I’m on screens. I’m on a screen right this minute writing this. I get it. It’s just I don’t want it to be the majority thing, the only thing, the longing-for-that-other-thing thing.
There you have it. You might not like it. It’s not a software solution. You don’t have to read a book. But you do need to be involved and you do need to get involved.
So go do that and let me know how it went.
* Steve Martin reference in case you wanted to know.