Home 9 Digital Nutrition 9 Back to school tech withdrawals: wrestling back control (and the controller)

Back to school tech withdrawals: wrestling back control (and the controller)

Oct 18, 2018

tech withdrawals

School holidays are a time when many parents struggle to keep kids, especially teens occupied without the use of technology.

Without the routine of the school day, homework and co-curricular activities, rules and limits around digital device use are regularly relaxed during these few weeks as young people have more time on their hands and their fear of being ‘bored’ is filled with hours online.

It can only take a few days of solid play on games like Fortnite for children to habituate and automate their gaming habits and start to rely on and ‘crave’ playing, yearning to improve their skills via practice and continue to build mateships, connections and hang-out virtually with the range of people they play with.

Kids who previously might have only made minor protests about logging off can quickly become upset, aggressive and unreasonable when asked to leave the screen.  Parents might have varying degrees of capacity to deal with conflict, from their own emotional energy for yelling, their physical ability to stand up to young men, or proximity to control it.

Tips for parents to get teenagers back into a routine for school after holidays.

    • Wean and taper them off.  Cold turkey can create big conflict, emotional outbursts and cause parents to retreat.  The weekend before school goes back is a good one to ensure that the family has a range of non-screen based activities planned and sleep-wake routines are reset ready for swinging back into action on Monday.
    • Make agreements, but support young people to build the skills required to follow/keep them. We forget that young people simply dont have the brain wiring needed to activate goal behaviour spontaneously and magically start abiding by rules with ease.  Its takes reminding and rehearsal, without nagging and lecturing.
    • Set reasonable consequences that have the right ‘pain point’. Getting the consequences right can be tricky for parents, you need to find something that will (metaphorically) pinch the right spot to help reframe behaviours.
    • Get tech back out of bedrooms. You are fighting a losing battle if the device is on the wall! I know many kids make ‘executive decisions’ to rearrange the furniture and have consoles visit their bedrooms during the holidays.  Standing firm on keeping devices out of the bedroom and in common areas is one of the biggest issues on maintaining boundaries.
    • Set digital sunsets and curfews. Creating tech-free time before bed, having clear bed-times and fiercely protecting sleep zones is a critical aspect for overall wellbeing for all members of the family (parents included).
    • Walk the talk.  Increasingly adults too are struggling to dial back their own smartphone and tech habits.  If you want your kids to take agreements seriously and listen to your concerns around impacts of tech, make a commitment to shifting some of your own habits.

Need help managing technology and conflict over it in your home?  I work with families to build communication, trust and respect around digital device use in the home.  Get in touch for more information on my psychological services. 


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