My tween son gets iPad withdrawal
Q: I am intrigued by the effect technology use in tweens might have as kids get older. My 9-year-old is allowed time on the iPad, but not alone, and just got access to an Xbox, and I feel that we are fairly antiquated in our approach compared to other parents. Not that I care what other parents might think, but perhaps I am protecting my son from nothing? He gets so grumpy when he has spent an hour on it, though, that I just feel I have to limit him. A: I certainly don’t think you’re protecting your son from nothing. We still don’t know the effects the digital revolution will have on this generation of children, so you’re wise to limit and monitor your 9-year-old’s screen time. It’s good to think about this now so you’ve got strategies in place before he’s a teenager. I also think you’re wise to let your son have some screen time. No matter how idyllic our childhoods with their no computers may seem in retrospect, that’s not the reality of the world we live in now. The virtual playgrounds of your son’s age are as real as the swings and slides of previous ages. It’s also important to have a computer literate and savvy child. However, the fact that your son is grumpy when he’s spent an hour on an iPad or Xbox is telling. His grumpiness is like a withdrawal symptom, a letdown. The drug of his choice, the screen, is finished for the day. Other telling signs are: constantly talking about when he can next get online; lying about how long he’s had; sneaking the device away to continue playing surreptitiously. Your son has to learn to manage and maintain his own healthy relationship with his screen time. Some suggestions for helping him with this are: don’t let your son have his iPad time just before bedtime; turn the volume and brightness setting down; and avoid aggressive apps that wind your son up. Another suggestion that I read recently is to encourage some of his iPad time to be a social interaction. Maybe you could find something that you could both do together before he has to put it away. It’s tempting to use the iPad as a glorified ‘‘peacetime’’ for you, but interacting with you and then closing it together will let him learn by example. Tech experts also recommend that you model your own screen time. If you’re chatting to your son, try not to keep glancing at your phone, and you could make your mealtimes and family times screen free. Mary-anne Scott has raised four boys and written three novels for young adults, including Sticking With Pigs (Tree House). As one of seven sisters, there aren’t many parenting problems she hasn’t talked over. To send her a question email email@example.com with Dear Mary-anne in the subject line. Your anonymity is assured.