Unplugging your child requires your intervention and the child’s cooperation. Here are some tips for both parents and children to stay “unplugged” in the high-tech age:
Remove the temptation entirely. I am not advocating tossing out the television, but children should not be plugged into the iPod, Blackberry, television, game console or PC every waking moment of every day. Limit the number of devices you purchase for your children. Ask them if given the choice between a video game or an iPod, which would they choose.
Limit the usage.
Technology comes only after homework and/or housework. During the summer, 47 hours of television can be crammed into a parent’s 10 hour workday. If the chore chart looms large before the television may be turned on, housework will be done.
Set a schedule.
Employ your children to help you with this. After school they may have one techno-hour. Let them decide which devices they would like on which days. Hand them a TV guide to help. During the summer, techno-hours (2-3) may be spent after such activities as sports, yard work, jobs and visiting friends (to do something other than watch television). Assist in the endeavor as well: Agree to download music or games for them, so that they can maximize their techno-time.
Eat a balanced meal.
No techno-time may be spent with any food or drink involved. No soda by the computer. No chips with the iPod. No text messaging during dinner. Separation of activities will help develop communication skills being lost to the text-message generation. Even the squarest parents could learn a few things during a conversation with a teenager.
Every community has activities for teens and tweens for the summer and after school. Let them do some research on the computer to find out about things that may interest them. If they come up empty, have them volunteer at a food bank, soup kitchen or nursing home. These activities build character and appreciation.
Take in a show.
No, don’t trade the small screen for a big screen. See something live. Go to a ballet, symphony performance, classical concert or opera. Take a night out to go to a theater production or a musical. See an exhibit at an art gallery or a natural history museum.
Take a class.
Hobby classes are common during the summer. Kids don’t have to go to the bingo hall with the blue-haired crowd, but they can enjoy ceramics, painting, sculpting or graphic design. Choose a class that will help them determine what career path they would like to travel.
Just say no.
If you child lacks the self-discipline necessary to adhere to the rules, pull the plug. Password the computer or install a computer nanny. Take the power cord to the game console, and put it in your sock drawer. Lose the jumper between the satellite box and the television. (Ant races get very boring.)
One way or the other, parents need to keep children unplugged, but not necessarily in a technological vacuum. Remember, the key is everything in moderation.