by Karen Fried, co-director of The K&M Center
“You don’t know how to parent!” – spoken like any frustrated 10 year-old. James lost his iPad privileges because his parents realized he had stopped reading because games like Flappy Bird, 2048, and Doodle Jump were just too much fun. Despite frequent reminders to read, it seemed every time James’ parents walked by, James head was slumped over his device and he was swiping away.
In consultation with James’ parents, we discussed whether there were any underlying reasons why James could be avoiding reading. For example, did he have any learning or attention challenges? After that was ruled out, we discussed a strategy of restricting use of the iPad and explaining to James to value of reading.
Once they noticed he was spending his free time reading, he would again be able to use the ipad and play his games. However, James’ first response was his certainty that his parents were incompetent (see above). When James’ parents held firm and suggested books that he would enjoy, read with him consistently, and engaged in discussions about the stories, James showed signs of rediscovering the joy of reading. He (barely) mentioned his iPad and enjoyed the attention his parents paid to him. A week later James got his iPad back and he and his family now have a new daily routine in place that includes reading.
While technology is an important part of all our lives for work and play, it can be a distraction from other productive activities such as reading or other projects. Besides determining whether there is an underlying cause, parents can also monitor their own use of technology. Modeling time off the phone and computer to engage with family can send the powerful message to your children that you follow the same habits you’re asking of them.