Are you addicted to your screen devices? Be honest.

I've been wanting to write a post about screen addiction for a while now as I feel that our family spends far too much time on their devices and it concerns me. But every time I start writing about this, I find myself going in circles. What am I trying to say? Isn't technology just the way of the world now? Or is this actually a problem? And if so, is there a solution?



My kids got mobile phones (and computers for school) when they were 12 or 13 years old and back then we limited their usage and wifi-access - and even though some of our kids tried to push the limits, we generally kept them in check for the most part. And that's where it all started. Slowly but surely, over the years, they have started spending more and more time on their devices, both phones and computers.

I recently read this informative article which shows that deliberate psychological tactics are used to get and keep kids (and their parents) addicted to their devices. I find that pretty scary, and a sobering realization that we didn't really stand much of a chance, did we?

Nowadays I find limiting our kids' screen time more difficult. They spend great lengths of time on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and Fortnite - flitting in and out of various apps all day long, communicating with their friends, using email and the internet for school work, listening to music or watching movies. As our kids have got older, their phones (and other devices) have become a huge part of their lives - carried around with them most of the time. Phones are almost an extension of one's self these days. And they're here to stay because let's face it, they're undeniably helpful when it comes to staying in touch with family and friends and also as a tool to gain knowledge and stay informed. 

And it's not only our kids: when Grant and I wake up in the morning, we immediately reach for our phones to turn the alarm off, then proceed to check emails and scroll through various news and social media apps, before eventually getting out of bed. 

Grant doesn't seem to think that he's particularly attached to his devices and argues that he only uses them for meaningful and useful pursuits like reading the news and keeping up with sports results, however, I have noticed that he spends a lot of time reading ALL--THE--NEWS and checking ALL--THE--SPORT on those devices of his. And there's a lot of news and sport! Hahaha. But to be fair, we no longer purchase physical copies of newspapers anymore because we've progressed through technology, I guess. 

And before you think I'm merely pointing fingers over here - I'm definitely not exempt from this screen addiction predicament because I'm over on Instagram and Twitter more times a day than I'd care to admit. I think it's safe to say that I'm thoroughly hooked.

So how do we achieve a balance? How do we teach ourselves and our kids to cut back to an acceptable and healthy length of time spent on our devices? Enforce charging all devices in a central area outside of bedrooms? Have a strict rule of no phones at the dinner table? Plan activities that get everyone away from their devices? (Yes, yes and yes.)

All I know is that I've recently become not only annoyed by having to compete with devices for my family's attention but also increasingly worried about how much time every member of our family spends on their devices each day and how this affects us both in the short and long term. (You might be experiencing something similar as it seems to have become a global dilemma.)



A few months ago, when I started feeling more concerned about being so attached to my phone, I downloaded a screen time tracker app and was completely horrified by how much time I was actually spending on my phone every day. Seriously horrified! It was so many hours that I was too embarrassed to tell anyone exactly how many hours of my day I truly spent scrolling through the various apps on my phone. (I'd recommend downloading one of those time tracker apps - I think you'll be surprised by your phone usage.)

Now I know it wouldn't be realistic to cut out my phone use completely because let's be honest, our phones are incredibly helpful, but downloading that screen time tracker made me super aware of just how much time I was wasting and it ultimately made me cut down the time I spend on my phone - but I reckon I could still do better.

But hey, it's certainly not all doom and gloom, because our family is very sociable and we all get out and do things other than sitting on our devices all day (okay, maybe not during the winter school holidays), but I still feel that we could be more detached from those things!

Besides the obvious negative consequences of excessive screen time like adding to depression/feeling down, low self-esteem, bullying and the hours of time wasted online, the thing that has made me most sad is that our time spent together as a family has dwindled. Dinner time has always been a priority in our family - the one time of the day that we would all spend chatting and catching up. This time has diminished over the years and while I do realise that it's because older kids are busier with more school internals, exam revision, sports training, their jobs and hanging out with friends, when we are together it's a constant battle to keep phones away from the table and then not be tempted to rush off to finish watching something or continue chatting with friends.

Sometimes when our family life gets out of whack, chores aren't getting done and we all seem to be drifting a bit, I call a family meeting. This elicits much grumbling from everyone, but in the end, I reckon it helps to spark our family togetherness and feed our souls again. Once we get over the initial moaning, that is.

And yes, I tend to blame excessive screen time for the drifting, which might not be totally fair, but it seems like our addictions to our screens account for much of the time that could be spent packing laundry away and tidying a bedroom or walking the dog and chatting with a family member.

And I think that if us adults aren't good at prioritising our time, how can we expect our kids to do it successfully? We might think that we have control over the time we spend on our devices, but it's too easy to pick up that phone, iPad or laptop and feed this habit of ours.

Anyway, I don't have the perfect answer, beyond the obvious, but I know that I'd like to be a better role model. I need to break free and hopefully lead the way, instead of thinking 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' and continue down this crazy path. But I could also be kidding myself because everyone seems so far down the addiction road that they don't even think that they are using their devices too much. It's just second nature now.

I still can't help thinking that we're being brainwashed into passivity and mediocrity, though - missing out on joy, fresh air, nature and real human connection. And I feel that I need to make some changes - for the health and happiness of not only me but hopefully our kids - when they see me setting a good example. 

How about you? Do you feel that excessive technology is something that just needs to be accepted? Or do you feel that this is a concern in your life? How do you maintain a good balance? I'd love to hear your point of view!

PS These are my random, rambling thoughts on this subject. All I know is that I'm feeling like I need more balance - and maybe it's as simple as me managing my own time better and being a good example to my family, with the odd comment here and there. As long as everyone is aware of what's happening and how many hours they are potentially wasting, we're taking one step in the right direction, no? Or is that not enough?

Again, I'd love to hear your thoughts.





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