Monday, July 22, 2013

Addicted To Electronics


the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma

I took my boys' Kindles away for an entire week and threw in a ban from the Wii and TV for added measure. I've had it up to my eyeballs with the tug-of-war between using their Kindles and doing "something else."

I've kept a pretty tight lid on electronics in our house for a very long time.  The boys never had a Nintendo DS.  We didn't jump on the iPod Touch bandwagon even though it seemed like every one of their friends had one.  It took awhile before we even agreed to get a Wii, but we relented because we were interested in the family games we could play together.  The boys even had to earn enough money to buy their own Kindles.  But once the "electronics bug" hit our house it's been a battle ever since.

In the past I've had a camp mom summer schedule mapped out that keeps us pretty busy, but the evil brain tumor has interrupted our regularly scheduled programing. I'm working now and even though Mark has an opportunity to spend more time with the boys this summer, their activities depend on his energy level.  Plus we still have doctors appointments and chemo schedules to adhere to.  Our summer is just different this year.

As a result, the boys have been playing more Minecraft on their Kindles.  While the game itself isn't inherently bad, it has become an addiction that needs to be stopped.  Like now.  They roll out bed and grab their Kindles because it's the first thing they think of when they wake up.  Like I used to do when I smoked.  The first thing I did after I woke up was grab a cup of coffee and a cigarette.  I remember the cigarette addiction.  It's powerful.  It's all-encompassing.  I'm not sure the pull of playing with their electronics is any different.  When you're addicted to something you want to do it all the time

I don't mind their occasional Kindle use.  I don' mind that the games they play encourage critical thinking and using their imaginations to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D world.  What I don't like is the panic that sets in when I tell them it's time to turn the electronics off.  There has to be a balance between growing up in an electronics generation and doing things that require critical thinking outside of a hand held game

We decide to take an electronics break and go for a bike ride Saturday because the weather finally cooled down a bit and it was a beautiful day.  However, the complaining and whining from my ungrateful children ruined what could have been a fun day outside.  The bike trail was too long.  They were too hot.  Their legs were tired.  The sun was too bright.  And on and on and on.  So, we packed up our bikes and came home. 

After we got back I asked the boys to give me their Kindles which started their week-long electronics ban.  I don't reward bad behavior and their actions have consequences.  So, their whining and complaining cost them their Kindles.  Hit 'em where it hurts.  

Luckily, the boys do like to play outside.  Given the opportunity to start a game of wiffle ball in the backyard and playing on the Kindle, they would choose the wiffle ball game every time.  But we haven't seen a lot of kids in our backyard lately.  When no one is playing outside, the boys instinctively turn to their Kindles as something to do to pass the time.  Now that their Kindles are off limits they managed to figure out a way to play wiffle ball with two people.  They took bike rides around the neighborhood and played basketball in the driveway.

A lot of fighting ensued (they are brothers after all) so they also had to figure out how to get along or end up alone in their bedroom. Because each boy would rather eat nails than admit to being at fault, their alone time led to reading more books. Which led to trips to the library to get more books.  Which led to talking about the books they were reading and naming characters and describing the  main conflict is in the story.  No electronics required.  Even though they can technically read books on their Kindle I encourage reading real books with real pages from a real library.

Nicholas said to me after a few days on his Kindle ban, "you know, Mom, I don't really need to play games on the Kindle when I have books to read."  Bingo, kiddo.  You don't need the Kindle.  It's a nice thing to do once in awhile, but it's not a necessity every minute of every day. Plenty of other opportunities for fun exist when encouraged to use our imaginations.

One of their more creative and humorous ideas for fun was using construction paper and markers to make picket signs that said, "No More Rules!" and "We Want Our Electronics Back!" They taped their signs to yardsticks and marched through the living room protesting their electronics ban.  While I gave them kudos for creativity, the ban is still in place :)  After their protest, they went off to play tag in the backyard.

We are still trying to find the right balance.  It's hard to raise unplugged kids in a plugged-in world.  Hard, but not impossible.  Looks like an occasional electronics ban might be a step in the right direction.




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