Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Get Off that Game Now!

  My name is Kevin Roberts and I am a recovering screen addict. I once played a computer game for several days without much sleep, and got carpal tunnel syndrome and suffered from visit-to-the-chiropractor back pain as a result. If you don’t want your children to end up like me, you need to begin from the time they are young to model a healthy relationship with your own screen use as well as to set appropriate limits and boundaries around technology. I have written several books on this topic. My most recent, Get Off That Game Now! The Essential Family Guide to Healthy Screen Behavior, gives you a step-by-step and easy to follow plan for doing all these things.

Video games are an incredibly engaging source of entertainment and even offer helpful life skills. They can help develop eye-hand coordination, visual-spatial acuity, and many teachers are using these twenty-first century amusements to make learning fun. A young person who plays video games to excess, however, often struggles with stunted social-skill development, an inability to self-regulate screen use, and even emotional outbursts. If you’re reading this and say to yourself, “that’s my child,” then you may need to call in professional help. Reading my books is best done BEFORE a serious problem takes root!

By the time parents call me, they are usually in dire straits, perhaps trying to confront a teenager who has angry outbursts when they try to curtail his or her screen use. While I regularly work with such situations, it is far better to start modeling healthy screen behavior when children are young, so that healthy habits grow and mature along with your child. So often, family life consists of everyone using every spare, or idle, moment to bond with the screen. You have to find other activities to do. In Get Off That Game Now!, I spend a great deal of time mentoring the reader in developing a healthy array of non-screen behavior. 

  I am involved in a scientific study with Detroit Children’s Hospital that suggests there are some disturbing patterns emerging in the brains of young people who spend large amounts of time in front of a screen. This issue is much deeper than screen use getting in the way of children doing their homework or chores. It goes to the fundamentals of how the brain develops. If we have children, for example, who prefer screens to people, that pattern, evidence continues to mount, will likely continue into adulthood. Then there are studies from the University of Bolton that suggest screen-addicted young people can develop some of the traits characteristic of a condition called Asperger’s Syndrome: lowered levels of extraversion and agreeableness and higher levels of neurotic behavior. Incidentally, “neurotic” simply means that when a person gets in a negative state, say perhaps depression or anxiety, he or she is likely to stay there for a while and not be able to transition out of it. If you do nothing else, follow these five steps that I have been recommending for years:

Kevin’s Top Five Family Technology Tips 
1. Have at least some tech-free time as a family. Don’t allow smart phones at the dinner table, for example. 

2. In addition to tech-free time, have tech-free zones. Many families I work with choose to use the family room for this purpose. Cell phones, video game consoles, laptops, iPads, and computers are not allowed in there. 

3. Set a maximum time allowed on video games and the computer. I recommend no more than two hours a day. 

4. For each minute spent on the computer or video game, require a corresponding minute of exercise. This will allow you to combat the tendency for technology to create sedentary and obese children. 

5. No TV’s, computers, or video game consoles in the bedroom.

Kevin Roberts is an internationally-known expert on screen addiction, ADHD, and success in school. He was recently featured on ABC’s 20/20 and the BBC’s FiveLive program. Roberts is also the author of Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap, which details his own struggles with screen addiction as well as his professional work with screen-addicted individuals.

1 comment:

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