It’s fair to say that people are more addicted to their electronic devices than ever before. Gaming addiction is at a record level, Netflix is achieving its highest viewership levels, and as you can see from these Cell Phone Deal Statistics, the average daily app usage has been increasing for years.
Last week we discussed young Noah who was “raging” because things were not going so well for him on his video game and Logan who had logged in approximately 14,600 hours of screen time by the age of 15 (see, 14,600 Hours Logged In).
Reflecting on the current state of affairs brought me back, to a long time ago in a galaxy far away. Then, Saturdays were the best days of the week. Usually there was endless fun. No school. No parents. Playing touch football in the street (two on two or three on three), going to the local woods or church playground, studying Batman and Superman comic books, were the main activities. Sometimes we went inside and played ping-pong or ran aurora cars around a track. We built model planes with real model glue (and still no parents around to supervise)! Around noon we had to go home for five minutes to wolf down a lousy bologna sandwich (on white bread, mind you) that was waiting for us, before rushing out the door to go back to what we were doing.
“The Days Were Are Just Packed,” said the title of one of the Calvin & Hobbes cartoon books (boy do, I miss them). Indeed the days were just packed – eight plus hours of kid driven fun.
Now, Saturdays are either adult-engineered (e.g., soccer, karate or whatever) or if there is no adult steerage then the kid retreats to a day on Xbox (or its equivalent). Weather is irrelevant in the decision making. Sunny days don’t mean much in video land. Mind you, the Saturday of XBoxing is on top of the five or six hours from the night before.
If you are a parent under the age of 40 or so, my guess is your Saturdays were more like the latter description spent engaged with adult driven activities or some type of screen activity, so perhaps this type of day described doesn’t bother you that much.
The over 40’s are worried.
They should be.
Upon reading the 14,600 hour blog, a colleague sent me the results of a large study that showed teenagers who logged in five or more hours a day of screen time were at greater risk for depression and suicidal thoughts. It was speculated that their increased depression was related to their decreased sense of connection with others.
I wish I had the formula for you in terms of what to do about all of this. My best advice is that you need to set your values clearly.
When my son was young we would have what I call our talks, “another in the ongoing series of values clarification discussions.”
It was in those values clarification sit-downs where parental expectations were laid out. (By the way, they started around the age of six and continued right into college!)
Here’s an example that I would have with Logan the boy we discussed last week, said slowly and very measuredly:
“Logan, we need you to understand something (pause). Playing your Xbox is a privilege. It’s not required that we give you this privilege (big pause). We are required to feed you and provide shelter. Your mom and I pay the bill for Xbox and we let you have it. Right now, we feel that you are abusing the privilege and taking advantage of us (very big pause). We don’t like that. We are very unhappy about it. Here’s the deal. If you continue to abuse the privilege by playing 5 or so hours a day, then your mom and I are going to take a serious look at curbing this privilege. we don’t exactly know what that means at the moment, but we can tell you that your game playing will be cut way back or we will have to shut it down altogether. You need to think about it seriously. It’s your call.”
Think about it. If the kid at 17 is given the keys to the car and you find out he is abusing the privilege (e.g., driving recklessly, coming home past agreed upon times), what would you do?
Of course. You would curb the privilege. You might shut it down.
Abuse of screens is no different.
Food and shelter are requirements. The rest are privileges.
Time to start having your, “Ongoing Series of Values Clarification Discussions.”
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