Digital detox for the family
If your kids are hooked on the Internet and gadgets, it may be time to start a tech fast
When Ms Angela Lee realised that her eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son were hooked on her tablet computer and smartphone, she decided that a digital fast was in order.
The 39-year-old finance manager said: "The first thing they would do when they arrived home from school was to go online. Our helper could never get them to log off.
"It got to the point where I was calling the house several times a day, just to tell them to get offline and remind them they had homework to do. I thought, 'I cannot keep doing this.' I was worried their schoolwork would suffer because of their preoccupation with the gadgets."
She added: "Also, my son could not sit down for a meal without a smartphone in his hands. That was when it hit me that unless I staged an intervention of sorts, my kids would grow up to be tech addicts - something I did not want."
So, with her husband's support, Ms Lee had a pep talk with her kids and put her family on a technology detox the following weekend.
HOOKED ON TECH
It is a well-known fact that over-exposure to the Internet and tech devices can have negative effects on one's concentration.
Mr Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre, added that people who spend too much time online may also have poor social skills.
"Being in this tech comfort zone makes it easy for them to switch off and they lose interest in everything that is going on outside of that environment," he said.
Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, agreed.
"Social isolation is a real problem for people who are hooked on gadgets. It is not uncommon to see such individuals neglect their social responsibilities because they are so lost in that digital world.
"Youngsters who miss out on opportunities for social interaction may end up with poor social skills when they are older," he said.
FAMILY CONFLICT, SENSE OF DISCONNECT
According to a study conducted by Kaspersky Lab and Iconkids & Youth, the Internet causes problems not just for the one immersed in technology but also between that individual and his family members.
The study, which was published last July, involved 3,780 families in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Russia, Spain and Germany.
It revealed that about 20 per cent of parents and children felt that the Internet can be the cause of family arguments.
Among the parents surveyed, 64 per cent felt they were no longer the primary contact point for their children. In fact, 23 per cent said their children now prefer to go online rather than approach them when they have questions or want advice.
Families also tended to sacrifice quality time together when their members spend too much time online - something Dr Lim said can also cause a strain in relationships.
HOW TO DO FAMILY DIGITAL DETOX
If you are worried about your little ones becoming socially isolated, or you want to improve communication among your family members at home, you may want to consider giving your family a tech break.
Going two or three days without the Internet or tech devices can help reduce your children's dependency on them and expose them to new ways of spending their free time.
There is a way to go about implementing a digital detox, however.
Do not simply hide the gadgets or disconnect the Wi-Fi and expect everyone to deal with it.
The trick is to slowly wean your family members off technology, so they are able to see how enjoyable a tech-free day can be.
EXPLAIN YOUR REASONS FOR WANTING TECH FAST
You will need everyone's cooperation and understanding, so explain your intentions and expectations.
Tell them why it is important for the family to go tech-free for a day or two and share with them what you hope to achieve during the detox - for example, build closer relationships with one another and find new bonding experiences.
Plan when the detox will happen and give your family time to emotionally prepare for it.
SET SOME RULES
Decide how you want to go about this - a completely digital-free weekend may not be possible, so Dr Lim suggested implementing digital-free hours during the day and making certain areas of the house digital-free instead. Try this over a long weekend and see how it goes.
"For example, you may wish to ban digital devices during mealtimes and one hour prior to bedtime and make it clear that no digital devices are to be used in the bedrooms and dining room," said Dr Lim.
"Initially, you may have to disconnect the Wi-Fi and put all the gadgets aside, but once your kids get used to it and become more disciplined, simply switching off the devices will do."
REPLACE TECH TIME WITH FAMILY BONDING
You do not want your children to feel bored during the tech break so plan some activities for them.
It is also important to spend time together as a family, said Mr Koh.
Take the children out to the park, enjoy quality time with your husband or play board games or charades instead of watching TV. Encourage your children to share their stories with you.
SET GOOD EXAMPLE FOR YOUR KIDS
"This means sticking to your own rules when it comes to digital-free hours or zones and not going back on your word about spending quality time together as a family," said Mr Koh.
This article is adapted from Simply Her.