I was just reading an article about how the Amazon Alexa crashed on December 26th, because millions of new people registered their accounts and attempted to use the service. Here at the end of 2018, we are connected to our phones, smart watches, tablets, tv’s, Alexa, social media accounts, game consoles, etc. constantly.
Research shows that this constant alertness and connectedness doesn’t allow our brains the rest it needs. Lack of rest and sleep causes a plethora of problems including increase in mental health symptoms, increase in physical symptoms, and less time for the things in life that actually do help us to feel better. It’s a nasty cycle, isn’t it?
We, as adults, struggle with this. And our children are beginning to struggle also. Children are getting smartphones early these days. Ten seems to be the age that most children have phones, and I’ve seen as young as six years old. The problems with this are many. Children do not have the cognitive skills and abilities in place to say no to the electronics addictions we are reinforcing by providing them with these items.
So, how do we spend less time with electronics? That’s a difficult topic, especially if you’ve allowed your child to have 24/7 access previously. As a play therapist, I recommend that your child earns time with his or her electronics. If your child (insert positive behavior here), they can earn 30 minutes of electronic time. This allows them to view electronics as a privilege and not as a right. It also introduces the idea that people have to work for what they earn. By spending less time with electronics, we will likely decrease anxiety and mood problems.
Another idea that may work for your family is the idea of jail time for electronics. For example, you might want to spend time together as a family during the evening. You may have a basket or box you could turn into an electronics jail. You could also spend time together decorating and creating the jail together. You could even set the expectation that your children must complete homework, chores, and dinner before they earn time with their electronics.
By limiting time with electronics, we focus more on our connections with each other. It also promotes the idea of imagination and free play instead of lying on the couch or bed constantly managing or playing our accounts or games. We increase our mindfulness by limiting time with electronics.
We’re here in the now focusing on each other. Connection with others is part of the remedy for so many problems. I’d love to hear of your experiences if you implement any of these ideas. Put down your phones, connect with one another, and play the old-fashioned way.