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Can't Unplug Kids From Video Games!

Video games are really fun. They stimulate youngsters in ways that ordinary life cannot, flooding their brains with feel-good neurotransmitters that make hitting the Off switch very unappealing.
12/28/2015 12:03pm ET | Updated December 28, 2016
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I've tried hard to make the holidays a time for family, but all my sons want to do is play video games. I admit that I sometimes go on Facebook or Instagram to relax, but I don't sit in front of a screen anywhere near as much as they do. Whatever happened to the good old days when kids had fun without all these gizmos and gadgets?

My article this week will have been uploaded by my assistant because I am taking two and a half weeks off from my computer. This is something I have started doing each year over the holidays and during the summer and let me tell you, it's not easy. But boy, is it ever worth it to step away from the screen for a while and engage more fully with the world around me.

Unless we ourselves develop a less dependent, enmeshed relationship with our digital devices, we cannot expect their children to do the same. Until we are ready to walk the talk, I'm not sure we can expect to come across with much credibility when we ask our children to read or draw or head outdoors to play.

Video games are really fun. They stimulate youngsters in ways that ordinary life cannot, flooding their brains with feel-good neurotransmitters that make hitting the Off switch very unappealing.

But there is tremendous joy in the kinds of activities that have entertained humans for centuries -- music and cooking and art and physical play... or quiet contemplation of Nature and its magic. There is something to be said for picking up the phone to connect with a friend, rather than quickly thumbing a text message. It just takes a willingness to slip into that slower pace.

During my digital pause this year, I plan to dive into practicing my banjo a lot more. I'm fumbling along, but hopefully without the competing siren song of my devices, I'll have made some progress by the end of this digital pause. I've got a pile of books on my bedside table that I'll be spending time with. I'll make extra time for daily meditation -- something nourishing to my spirit. And I'll be handling my work appointments the old-fashioned way -- by telephone.

Instead of lecturing your boys about the evils of video games, or shooing them out the door to play, join them in activities that show them that life can be lots of fun without batteries. Put together a family basketball game. Build a fort in the living room. Host a Monopoly marathon.

And consider a two- to three-day Digital Pause, during which the family unplugs completely. With a longer break from screens, everyone may discover that being more engaged with creative pursuits, outdoor activities, or simply sitting quietly and doing nothing can be wonderfully restorative.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and the brand new Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (An Eckhart Tolle Edition). She is a family therapist, parent coach and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting.

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