By Sophie Barcant, BA (Psyc), B.ED. Trainer, Facilitator, Parenting Coach/Consultant.
It’s vacation time. Have we gradually slipped into the habit of allowing our children and ourselves to overindulge with our screens? Vacation time is a good time to pull back on these habits and NOT free up to indulge more.
So how else to occupy them, you may ask? Play real games, indoor and outdoors and communicate of course. Grow your children’s minds. Play cards and board games which require thinking, strategy, problem solving, healthy competition and teamwork. Have you heard of Rummy-O card game? My oh my, does it ever require thinking and problem solving, great for ages 9–92!
Screens have robbed us of physical activity as well as good conversation time with our relatives and friends. I will never forget the shock, sadness and disgust I felt when TV screens were mounted on the walls of one of our very popular family restaurants and seeing all eyes glued to the screens, people eating mindlessly instead of interacting with one another.
How about we petition to have these removed? The fad came in, they followed it and now no one can deny what the negative effects of too much screen time are.
Maybe the family restaurants can now set and follow a new fad and do away with them while promoting family values of strong relationships, communication and spending quality time with loved ones.
Pope Francis said “When we fix families, we fix society”. Family life is under severe attack, and we cannot deny that our society could do with some fixing. We must protect and nurture our families. How do we do this?
First, we live our values of spending time together, prioritising family meal times, being honest and open, respectful, accepting and tolerant.
What is the unspoken message we give when we forbid screen time and announce that we will have discussions and play healthy games?
The message is even louder and clearer when we have the loving conversations explaining the reasons we are taking this action and when we explain to our children how the subtle evils of the world operate.
How we use technology is becoming a subtle evil. So wonderful with information and free phone connection with loved ones worldwide but so evil by ensnaring us into deadly sedentary lifestyles, and not engaging with others, just to mention a few.
If you have forgotten what to converse about then use three minutes of screen time to Google ideas. Asking questions stimulates thinking. Of course sharing stories of our youth is always an education, especially when the stories are about our peers risky behaviours.
These stories actually serve as an indirect warning about the consequences of making certain choices when under the influence of alcohol or just trying to impress others. I think of drunk teens who caused tragic accidents by being out of control and trying to impress. Stories like these are powerful and get important messages across without lectures, threats and punishments.
Screens are addictive. Neuroscience says we get a hit of dopamine (our natural happy hormone) when we receive messages and ‘likes’ and wins with games.
What is wrong with this? Nothing in itself but do we really want to depend on a device to meet our need to be liked and appreciated and happy, with other humans?
People, friends and family are to meet our needs for importance and significance, NOT devices. The implications of this are dangerous for human relationships, VERY subtly dangerous.
It’s a clever trick of the devil to destroy family life and relationships. Research even shows that suicide rates among students are higher than ever now because they are not feeling valued or “liked” enough on social media.
Wise parents will limit their own screen time and that of their children’s. It must not replace positive healthy physical activity and interaction. Let’s control IT, not let IT control us. May our guardian angels help us have the self-control needed to fight this quiet monster.
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