Model behavior? I’m working on it!

March 18, 2012

Tell me I’m not the only parent who’s done this:

I pry the iPad from my son’s tapping, swiping, slave-to-the-screen fingers and send him off to do something more “healthy” than Angry Birds or Trucks and Skulls. Then I grab up my Android and start tapping and swiping, a slave to my own tiny screen of email, texts, and Facebook. Oh, the irony.

And it doesn’t go unnoticed by my son. He knows that just as surely as the coffee starts brewing at 6:15 a.m. and the dog gets fed by 6:45 a.m., the desktop, laptop and smartphones get powered up and “checked” with the sunrise, too. But, I tell him, it’s because of mommy’s and daddy’s work. We just need to “check” that nobody needed us, you know, in the middle of the night. Huh?

That first quick check of email did have to do with work, but oh look, it’s my move on Words With Friends. And someone commented on the photo I posted yesterday on Facebook – better take a look at that. And Kaitlin ousted me as mayor of the grad lab, so of course I need to text her something funny.

Half an hour later and I’m just a big ol’ hypocrite. How can I expect my 8-year-old to use restraint when it comes to gadgets when I can’t?

And where does this lack of self-control come from? According to WebMD: “We already know that the Internet and certain forms of computer use are addictive,” says David Greenfield, PhD, a West Hartford, Connecticut, based psychologist and author of Virtual Addiction: Help for Netheads, Cyberfreaks, and Those Who Love Them. “And while we’re not seeing actual PDA addictions now, the potential is certainly there.” Computer technologies can be addictive because they’re “psychoactive”; they alter mood and often trigger enjoyable feelings. Email, in particular, gives us satisfaction due to what psychologists call “variable ratio reinforcement.” That is, we never know when we’ll get a satisfying email, so we keep checking, over and over again. “It’s like slot machines,” Greenfield says. “We’re seeking that pleasurable hit.”

(Yes, I just used internet sources to blog about addiction to technology. Beyond ironic, I know.)

Just like my son wants to try one more time for the “pleasurable hit” of making the next level on Angry Birds, I love checking all my social media one more time before bed just in case there’s a “pleasurable hit” in my inbox. Repeated quick-hit satisfaction is not wiring the truly happy child’s brain, and could well be setting him up for a lifetime of frustration when life doesn’t deal out dopamine quite so easily.

In the face of technology that is only going to become more and more addictive, what is more important: my need for that digital “pleasure hit” or my need for my son to see me modeling healthy restraint toward digital crack? I think it’s time to power down for the day. Anyone want to join me for a real game of Scrabble? No phones allowed!

4 Responses to “Model behavior? I’m working on it!”

  1. ABCD123 Says:

    I actually feel badly about buying an iPhone. Sometimes I make the kids wait while I’m playing Drawsome. Lol. That’s pretty bad! I’m trying to put the phone down more and make quality time for tea parties and hide from mommy the monster games. It’s definitely a sign of the times.

  2. You hit it right on the nose for me! It’s an addiction, and I have it for sure…. Everything with children is about modeling behavior for their sponge-like brains, so I’m putting my iphone down now so I can cook dinner instead of reading your wonderful blog……. But I HAD to comment first!!!! 🙂

  3. playfulpups Says:

    It is a constant struggle for me! Many times I pick up my phone and am doing something on it before I even realize it. I do try to keep the kids active in other things- I need to work on that for myself though too. Great post.

  4. So glad I’m not the only one! We’re trying!

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