Status update

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A few years ago I ran into an acquaintance at an event. I hadn’t seen her in a couple of years but we carried on a conversation as though we’d talked just last week. It went something like this. How was your vacation? The pictures looked fabulous! You kids are getting so big. Congratulations on your new job!

As we walked away my husband remarked that he didn’t know we’d kept in touch. Facebook, I explained. The highlight reel of our lives. Carefully curated for the highest yield of likes. I had to admit, it was weird, the exchange this woman and I had. How did life get to the point that I was hyper aware of what near-stranger/acquaintances were up to? How much unnecessary information was taking up valuable real estate in my brain?

On another occasion I sat around with a group of friends. A similar conversation took place as we asked about various updates we had all posted. We seemed to already know what each other had been up to since we last got together, or at least what we wanted our vast network of “friends” to know. It didn’t feel authentic or spontaneous or real. But as with good friendships, we soon found our way to the real heart of the matter and shared about our aging parents, our issues with getting our kids to do homework, our hard truths.

A couple years ago I gave up social media for six weeks. You know what I found when I returned at the end of my fast? I wasn’t missing out and I wasn’t missed. It was a good experiment because when I did log back on, I wasn’t obsessively checking it throughout the day. It gave me perspective about how much time I was wasting on something that wasn’t really connecting me to people (although it’s suppose to make you feel like you are). I loved getting together with friends and really hearing for the first time, face to face, what they had been up to in the last few weeks.

Since that time, I still struggle with how much social media to use. Sometimes I swear it off altogether and sometimes I can’t wait to post something. There are benefits too because I find out things I wouldn’t otherwise hear about there. I follow a lot of positive thinkers which inspires me. Facebook has become our new community newspaper where we learn about births and deaths and our friends accomplishments.  We can quickly get information out to our entire network or a small group. It has become part of the fabric of life.

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During our technology reset, I’ve stepped away from social media again. I deleted all time-sucking apps from my phone (including games) and I conservatively estimate the time savings to be about an hour and a half a day. It could be more. I’m not going to save the world with the time I’m saving but it’s giving our family the time it needs to re-connect with each other. And I’m finding I really kick butt at Boggle!

We have also been doing a lot of reading on the effects of constantly be connected with technology. It’s pretty scary stuff, how addicting our phones, iPads and laptops are. It has reinforced why this break is necessary and gives us the time to come up with a strategy when we inevitably decide to plug back in.

MC

Some links on our technology reset:

Reset Your Child’s Brain
Glow Kids
Simon Sinek on Millenials and technology (YouTube)

The technology reset continues

“What can I do when we get home?” was the greeting I received when I picked my son up from school yesterday. I gently reminded him we had an appointment with the therapist, followed by an audible groan of displeasure. Why and ugh were uttered and I was right there with him. I didn’t want to go any more than he did. With the rain beating down, I wanted to snuggle on the couch with tea and a book and a movie for him. Not an option.

Since last September we’ve seen R, the therapist, about a half dozen times and the maxresdefaultappointments are usually scheduled on the heels of a major meltdown as this one was. That was about three weeks ago as he experienced a a breakdown over a fidget spinner and a birthday party I didn’t end up letting him attend.  It’s when I finally took his iPad and Roblox away. Roblox could be a post all it’s own and has been a major source of conflict for L with his peers over the past few months. I didn’t totally get what it was when he first started playing but knew there is a social aspect and a multi-player game facet that included things like hide and seek and role playing games which he gravitates toward. I don’t feel it’s a healthy environment for him.

When we arrived at the office, the therapist greeted us and jumped right in to see what’s been going on since the last time we met. I explained about the meltdown, what I was seeing when he was using electronics too much and the steps I had taken to remove electronics for the next several weeks. I’m not sure he thought a total restriction was necessary and doesn’t feel he can learn moderation if he doesn’t have them at all. I was firm on the ban and after explaining it was more a family experiment than anything else, R seemed good with it.

The appointment began with the four of us talking and then L and R spent some time together so L can share anything he’s not comfortable bringing up in front of us (the parents). By the end of the appointment you would think it was L’s idea to go there in the first place. He is always in a much better frame of mind in the end and we all come away with insights and ideas on how to move ahead. It’s an hour well spent for all of us.

Wednesday marked a week since the electronics fast began and I congratulated him on how well he was doing on our way home from school that day. He said it wasn’t so bad because he can still do electronics at school and it turns out nearly every day they use an iPad in science or a computer in technology class. I asked how he feels about when he has to turn off the devices and he said it’s hard but he has to do it. I left it at that and focused on what we could do at home.

We’ve spent a lot more time together as a family this week playing board games, shooting hoops and just plain old talking. No one has their device face down on the table hoping to take a peak when no one else is looking. L can really be a chatterbox and he has two trademark phrases – here’s the deal (as he negotiates something) and I have a question. We’ve been hearing those a lot this week and it’s been nice to hear him more and listen to what’s happening at school.

One of the things he has been trying to negotiate is some TV time and I’m loosening up with the idea of allowing it. In the Reset Your Child’s Brain program, a few hours of TV each week is allowed but I’m going to limit it to a movie here and there because there is a definite begin and end to a movie. When he watches shows on Netflix, there is always the temptation to watch “just one more episode”.  I have the same problem so I can totally understand where he’s coming from.

At the onset of the program, they recommend setting three measurable goals to track during the reset. For us I want to see fewer meltdowns (so far so good), faster compliance with requests like homework, showering and bed time (better) and expanding the choices of how he spends free time (this is going well but requires a lot more from us). It certainly hasn’t been perfect but the improvement in his attitude and behavior has been noticeable. As we head into another full weekend without technology, I’m seeing it as more of a reprieve than a punishment for all of us.  A way of reconnecting to each other and trying new things together.

MC

Technology Detox

In my previous post, I hinted at the difficulties I’ve had with parenting a child who is so much different than I was growing up. He is headstrong. I am easy going. He is argumentative and I go with the flow. He is kind and passionate but sometimes a little (lot!) more than I can handle. And I don’t do this alone because my husband (J) is right in the trenches with me but we don’t approach it from the same perspective. So anything I write about the experience is wholly from my perspective which is why I use the word I a lot.

I also feel I am more engaged in finding solutions to the difficulties we experience with our son (L). Is this unusual in family dynamics? I don’t think so. It does make getting to the root of a problem that much harder if you’re not both on the same page. We have traveled a long somewhat difficult path over the last few months with a major melt-down at the end of last summer really being the spark that started the fire. We looked to a family counselor to help us along and we’ve made slow progress in areas only to be back at square one time after time.

The common thread of all the hiccups on our route to becoming a harmonious family unit is electronics and every time there is a big blow up, we can point to overuse of various screens whether it be the iPad, TV, computer or phones. There never seems to be a happy place of balance for us. We live in a digital world or so we are told time and time again and we are confronted with this reality everywhere we go with both kids and adults buried in their screens.

After many months on this roller coaster of a ride, I finally had a moment of clarity. One night last week, a few days after finally taking away his iPad for good after another epic meltdown, I found L hunched over the computer screen at 10:30 on a school night feverishly playing a typing game he plays in technology class. What?! Why?! I had put him to bed two hours before and so desperate for screen time he was unable to go through the night without playing again. He skulked off to bed and I was left stunned in the wake of this discovery but soon shot into action removing cords from all the devices (TV’s included) in our house. It was time to go cold turkey.

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The time had come for a full on technology detox for our household. The seed of this was planted when I read Reset Your Child’s Brain by Victoria L. Dunckley in early 2016. At that point I found it interesting reading and a sometime-we-might-need this-plan in our back pocket sort of thing. The time had come and boy did we need it now. Unfortunately I acted in haste and pulled all the plugs before talking it over with anyone else. I was a mama bear disturbed from her slumber and you don’t want to mess with her.

I didn’t tell J what had happened prior to pulling all the plugs and how late L had been up the night before and how prickly he was going to be that morning. It was a rough hour or so but I managed to get them off to school and work while I worked at enlisting others in the ban. His teacher and after school teacher were the first line of resources I engaged and they were fully on board although I did choose to allow him to continue technology class for the remaining three weeks of school as well as the occasional movie shown in the classroom. I didn’t want him to feel ostracized or adrift because of the ban but it also limits his exposure as best we can through the next weeks.

The first days of unplugging rolled out without a plan and that was probably a mistake. In Reset Your Child’s Brain, Dunckley suggests a full week of preparing for the ban and that might have made things a bit easier. But I was familiar with plan and knew that I would need to fill in the downtime with other activities and had already started a list of options. We went to the library, Taekwondo and swimming. Friday night we had a sitter (his sister) who was thrown head first into the no technology zone. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy night.

I wasn’t prepared for our first full weekend day though and it was beyond rough. There was a bunch of structured activity – a lacrosse game, bike rides and we pulled out some board games but eventually we hit a wall and there were plenty of tears and fits of anger to absorb which we rode it out as best we could. I cleaned out his room and unearthed some projects he had left undone due to his preference for electronics and those kept him busy some of the time. Legos, an experiment kit, a puzzle. He begged to watch television. Just one movie. Please, please, please. It’s so hard to be unwavering in the presence of his tear soaked face. There was no choice, though.

Sunday was much better and while it required a much higher level of engagement from J and I, at the end of the day we’d had fewer meltdowns and only once or twice did he ask to watch TV. He kept busy playing basketball, creating science experiments, watching his cousin play basketball and a couple bike rides. He even dragged some lumber out of the basement with the idea of building a fort. We had a nice dinner out and no electronics were displayed throughout. It was the first time in a long time that had happened.

I’m not naïve enough to feel we’ve cleared any hurdles yet. But at least we are bringing a little more peace back into our lives. We are joining him on the ban so other than updating the blog from time to time I am removing myself from social media and other internet use as much as possible. I’ve also given up Candy Crush, my little secret addiction in solidarity with him. There is even a $5 fine to be levied against anyone who breaks the ban. If we need to use our phones at home we must announce the reason first or pay the piper.

I started re-reading the book we’re basing the ban on and came to a part where it asked parents to give up electronics (including my beloved kindle). It was fairly ironic because I was reading the book on said kindle. Instead of despairing, I requested the physical book from the library and put down my kindle for the duration. It’s a small price to pay. We’re finishing up week one and I’ll update our progress when I can.

MC