January 30, 2014
I just watched a New York Times mini-documentary on China's Web Junkies, and it simply shocked me.
I don't spend much time fearing things, but internet addiction in kids/teens really scares me. Ever since I read a research-based article connecting the Thurston High School shooter to heavy usage of violent video games, I've made a commitment to never allowing violent games in our home. "Using" the internet has all the makings for a serious addiction: easy access, mindless pleasure and a way to fill the void inside. As the video clearly shows, loneliness is both the root and the outcome of craving connection through the internet. If we're honest, many of us parents are already addicted. I know I am on some level. Email and the worldwide web were emerging as I began my career, and I've never worked without the company of a computer. Now I can/need to view my three email accounts from my phone and research anything that pops into my mind. Facebook can be all too tempting, as it does serve as a social medium for staying connected with my friends in town and across the globe. There can be pure joy found in heartwarming messages that come at just the right moment. But, in my opinion, connecting socially online shouldn't happen while your kids are craving your attention.
As busy parents, I don't expect anyone to go offline, but its important to become aware of our usage in the presence of our kids. We are settling the cultural norm by demonstrating our values. If we don't give our kids the deep and genuine attention they crave now, it's all too likely that they will turn to the internet or other addictions when they grow up. If you're following my new blog, you'll know that my family recently drafted our first Family Screen Policy.
Despite his friends getting vastly more screen time, our does son seem very satisfied with earning a limited amount through reading. Our kids are still way more interested in sports, making art and getting outside, but at least now we both have some guidance about when it's allowed. I've also found that I'm walking my talk more now and fighting the impulse to check-in online when the kids are around. Does your family have a screen policy? Have you witnessed or felt addicted to the internet? How important (or challenging) is it for you to unplug?
This is guest post by Darcy Cronin, a mother of three, blogger, and small business adventurer. Darcy became certified as a Simplicity Parenting Coach to help busy families create paths toward meaningful values and more sustainable lifestyles. Follow her blog and sign up for workshops at Darcy's Utopia.