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Child and Adolescent Counseling Blog for Lisa Klipfel, MFT
I'm so done with technology: Taming the electronic giant

Many parents ask me about taming the electronic giant, because they are "so done with technology that they just want to throw all the electronics away." After attending the Southern California Regional Play Therapy conference this weekend, I've realized the electronic giant has spread everywhere. The electronics include cell phones, smart phones, ipods, ipads, ereaders, computers, TVs, hand held gaming units and TV gaming units. Essentially anything with a screen is included. Parents are asking how it got out of control, while kids are asking for more.

The first step is to realize how many devices that you have, who is using them and for what purpose. You will find that it is not only children who are using them and some kids will even complain about their parent's use of electronics. Kids as young as 17 months can swipe on an ipad and find their favorite game. In this day and age, the WHO probably consist of most people in the family.

The next question is what are the devices being used for...really. I recently did a personal evaluation with an app to time each activity I did for a week. It was an interesting personal experience, as there were many electronic activities such as responding to emails that I thought was just taking a few minutes, actually took 3X as long as I estimated. So, we really have to evaluate how much time we are spending on a device for what purpose. Evaluate for yourself on how much you think you spend on your devices, then log it for a week, or even a day. You'll be surprised between what you think and what you actually do. Have each family member do the same.

After determining the amount of time and activity, it's time to really evaluate if you want to reallocate the time and activity. This gives parents and kids the opportunity to see how much time they really are using their electronics for educational purposes. There are other positive things your children are doing on their devices, like communicating with you or other members of the family which you wouldn't want to discourage. As you look at the specific activities, it's important to really evaluate the positive aspects of some activities such as education, interacting with positive role models, family communication, etc. It is like taking a look at someone's diet and seeing if they are getting enough fruits, vegetables, protein and carbs. After looking at the ratio, parents should first discuss the time and activities with each other. They should come up with expectations together.

Then meet together as a family to discus the amount of time spent on electronics and the expectations. Making changes in this area may be difficult. For young child, the parents should set the rules without child input, while tween and teen input would be expected for better compliance.

If you are uncomfortable about limiting your child's electronic device usage, think about some of the rules you may have had using the phone, or even playing with other kids when you were growing up. "Land line" phone rules may have included time limitations as no call waiting existed, limiting the number of calls per day, limiting where the phone could be used, and a certain phone answering ettiquette. As the parent, you are in control of all the electronic devices. They are privileges. They are not rights, despite what your child may demand. It is not that you are trying to deprive them of their best electronic friend, but that you are trying to teach them to be kind, responsible adults.

For so many parents, attempting to train the electronic giant seems impossible. One of the things that I work with many parents on is how to set boundaries around electronics and not feel guilty about it. You are not alone. The giant can be tamed.

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