Last week we talked about how to help your preschooler unplug. This week we are going to talk about a harder issue: when it’s time for you to pull the plug. One thing that my husband and I are extremely focused on is teaching our children how to have a healthy relationship with technology. There are times when that relationship, for a child or an adult, can become destructive. When that happens, its time to seriously consider pulling the plug.
What is a Healthy Relationship With Technology?
Before you can begin deciding if you need to pull the plug or not, you need to know if technology is a healthy or unhealthy part of your child’s, your spouse’s, or your life.
Technology is first and foremost, a tool, which serves many useful functions in your life, such as:
- Organization and Time Management
- Productivity and Business
See? These are some great ways that technology can improve the quality of your and your family’s life. But it’s a balancing act, and it is important to keep technology as a tool and not let it become a master.
The most important sign that there is an unhealthy relationship with technology is if it is preventing someone from doing their job properly. For a parent, their job in the home is to be focused on taking care of all of the aspects of running their household and caring for their family. For a small child, their main job is to play, because through play they learn necessary skills to grow and develop. Older children and teens also have their responsibilities as students.
Here are a few examples of unhealthy relationships with technology:
- A small child is demanding to watch television and refusing to play with their toys.
- An older child is spending all their free time on a device playing games, and not putting enough time into schoolwork, socializing, or other activities.
- An adult is spending more time focused on social media than they are on their spouse, children, and household.
When someone has an unhealthy relationship with technology in your household, it is time to plan on pulling the plug.
Pulling the Plug
We are currently on a technology fast in our family, it is a complete fast for our eldest son, and a partial fast for the rest of the family. The reason why is listed above. My preschooler has been trying to convince me that he should be allowed to watch television all the time. And he has been resisting playing with his toys.
We’ve been concerned about his behavior ever since we got back from our trip at the beginning of the month. During our trip he got more time watching movies and gaming with his cousins, and his routine got knocked out of whack. When we got home, he resisted going back on routine, and as time continued and he continued to fight us on the television, we decided to act.
This last Sunday we informed our son that he would be getting no television for several days. Also, no tablet, and no playing games on any other devices. My husband and I also agreed to limit our technology use throughout the time as well; while we have used devices, we have limited it to necessary work in front of our son and absolutely no entertainment in front of him.
When my son heard this, he ran to the television and tried to turn it on. I calmly walked over and unplugged the television and every single device connected to it from the wall. My son was shocked; while we’ve done technology fasts before, we had never been so firm about it.
It has been an interesting couple of days, with a lot of conflicting emotions going through our son. With technology completely off the table he’s been having to find more things to entertain himself, but he has gone through plenty of fits about losing his television time. He’s tried lots of (sometimes comical) techniques to try and convince us to let him watch television.
- He’s been trying to sneakily get me to tell him he can watch a show. It hasn’t worked yet.
- He attempted a hunger strike, it lasted about 15 minutes.
- He threw all his Duplos on the floor in a tantrum; I sat down and started building with them, and he found himself sucked into playing with me.
The most important thing that we have been able to do was be present with him during this time, stay calm, and not let him manipulate us. We’ve allowed him to yell, scream, and fuss. Essentially, this has been a bit of a detox for him, and he’s coming out of it.
Use the Unplugged Time
When you’re unplugged, take advantage of the time to try to enjoy each other, play together, and develop new interests. I’ve been playing lots of music so that my son can sing, dance, and bang on the piano. We’re a musical family, and its something that has helped calm him as he’s adjusting. We’ve also focused on getting out and being around other children.
Spend time discussing how to address and improve technology use in your home. My husband and I sat down and had a family meeting about our problem. We discussed causes, threw around solutions, and adjusted the rules. We also discussed how we can set better examples and guide him better. With an older child, teen, or adult, bring them into the discussion, and have them agree with the rules. Signing a pledge may even help everyone.
Even after agreements have been made, make certain that you have given enough time for a technology detox. If you give back technology privileges too early, it may be harder to adjust to new rules in the long run. Try to establish that they have calmed down and have started feeling less anxious about being deprived of technology.
Enforce the new rules and hold each other accountable. It’s not bad for the whole family to adjust their technology rules, even if only one person was struggling to begin with. Place priority on the unplugged time and make certain that it feels fun and rewarding. Work on discovering new fun ways to enjoy tech free time.
When your family’s relationship with technology isn’t working it will affect everyone’s mood and emotional well being. Assessing how you’re doing and being proactive about tackling issues before they become a huge problem is necessary for building healthy habits.
Technology is not going to go away, and ignoring its importance in our culture isn’t the answer either. Because of how prevalent it is, it is necessary to foster healthy habits for yourselves as parents, as well as educating your children, even from an early age. Technology is a wonderful tool, and with proper use can be incredibly helpful in building a broad range of experience; but if it is used improperly it can become a master which can control your household and limit you.
Have you ever had to unplug for yourselves or a family member? What are some of your experiences.