The big fear I'm hearing on the internet these days:
“I think my kids are addicted to technology!”
That’s what lots of parents are saying. It’s what even more are thinking, but NOT saying.
And then they hear things like unschoolers don’t set any limits on their kids, when it comes to their phones, tablets, desktops - all their electronic devices.
I did an interview last Friday over at Amazon Live on this topic of technology and video games. So over the weekend, I asked my Unschooling Mom2Mom Facebook group what they want to hear more about.
And hands down, the topic they want to hear more about is
“What if my kid only wants to play videogames!”
So that’s what we’ll talk about today!
In case you’re new here, I’m Sue Patterson, and this is the Unschooling Mom2Mom podcast.
I’m bringing 25 years of unschooling experience here. And I want you to know that you do NOT have to duplicate school.
Unschooling really does work.
My own three kids are grown now - all different paths, all unschooled, all off on their own young adult adventures. I do this quick little pep talk of a podcast to encourage you that this can work for you and your kids too. It won’t look exactly like my path - but that’s what creating a truly individualized approach is all about.
- Making it unique for you.
- Learning from other people - what they did right and maybe even what they didn’t do well!
- Taking the data and seeing what fits for you. For your kids. For your family.
I have all kinds of ways to bring you support - an unschooling course, a membership group, unschooling guides, 1:1 coaching calls. So much variety because I want to offer ways to get you this information that works for you.
How do YOU learn best? Reach out and I’ll help you find the resources that you need to be successful at unschooling.
So let’s tackle that Technology issue. I touched on this a little back in episode #30.
So if we come to the end and you think, “Uhhh. I need a little more than that!” You can go there next!
Lots of parents come to me saying,
“They only want to do videogames. I think they’re addicted!”
Let’s dismantle that a little more.
When Fear is Talking
The first part is the story you’re telling yourself about them ONLY wanting to play videogames. That kind of all-or-nothing thinking doesn’t help you. Most of the time, when we dig a little deeper, we find examples of them doing other things too: they make it to their sports practice, they bake with mom, they show up for meals, they play with the dog occasionally. It’s really all about our fears running the show...making you look away from the examples of it NOT being true, and focusing on behaviors that keep you worried. Peeling that back and looking at it is important.
The next part has to do more with your knowledge about unschooling - or lack of knowledge. When we understand that humans are hardwired to learn, and we move toward our interests, when we’re given the chance, we can see that this is EXACTLY what the kids are doing. We don’t need to fight it. We may need to LEARN more about it.
That’s why I always tell people that if you’re feeling fearful - about anything - move toward it. Learn more about it. What is going on… exactly? And when you do that, you’ll see all KINDS of learning happening. It’s just up to us to notice. To not allow our own fear to distract us from the reality of what’s happening.
Fear can sound like all kinds of things…
“What kind of parent lets a kid do this?”
“What’s wrong with my kid - why don’t they like things they used to like?”
“How will they be prepared for the future, if this is all they know how to do?”
“It’s the technology, it sucks you in and it’s out of your control!”
“Technology is so addictive - I’ve read all that research!”
So, yeah. I get it. Some of these questions were even things *I* thought… back in the day.
But all that is fear talking. And all it takes is looking at those fears, those questions, and answering them.
Unschooling Guide: Technology
Ready to dive into this even more? I have the perfect mini-magazine to help you!
This Unschooling Guide has info about:
- Practical suggestions for setting up your home
- Dealing with fears from your community
- Answers to your questions and concerns
- Research articles, videos, books
- Reframing tense situations
- What are they Learning?
- More about Minecraft
- Resources to continue your unschooling journey
… and so much more!
There’s a lot to unpack there. Let me give some quick answers before we get to the one you came here for - ADDICTION!
What kind of parent does this?
One who is engaged and knowledgeable about what’s going on with their kid AND trust the biology of humans wanting to know more, learn more, satisfy curiosities.
Why won’t my kid do things they used to do BEFORE they discovered Minecraft or the game-du-jour?
Maybe they’ve outgrown those old interests. Maybe the technology allows them to do all kinds of things they weren’t able to do before.
How will they be prepared for the future?
The future is moving toward more technology, not less. Their ability to navigate and problem solve will be BENEFICIAL in their future. The companies they’ll work for - or start themselves - will want someone who knows how to work with gamification.
Information Technology is part of EVERY company! The more you know about what the kids are doing, the more you’ll be able to answer this for yourself.
Technology sucks you in and you’re not in control
… sounds like projecting a little. What kind of modeling are you doing in your home? Isn’t it important to figure out how to manage it? It’s NOT controlling you. It’s a choice. Isn’t it better to help kids figure out how to manage all this freedom while they’re still at home with you, providing food and shelter? They’re going to need to learn how to do this. Banning them from their devices is not going to help them learn.
Wow. I took a long time to get this, didn’t I?
Kids wanting to play on their devices whenever they have down time or not-otherwise-engaged time, is not addiction. It reminds me of when we used to have TV on from dinnertime until bedtime. No one said, “your family is addicted!” It was just part of the routine. Something we preferred. Same with the kids.
Sometimes people say “addiction” because they’ve heard about dopamine and brains - and how this is similar to heroin addicts of something. But that’s sensationalism. And that’s what sells articles, right? Truth is, dopamine is released every time we do something we enjoy. Those first few bites of a favorite food - dopamine hits similarly. Diving into a swimming pool on a hot summer day - dopamine. Hugging your loved ones - also dopamine. So don’t get swept away with the dopamine analogy. Kids have fun on their games, so yes, dopamine is released. It’s ok. It’s not heroin.
Families who have had addiction issues know that this is NOT the same… the damage, the disruption to the family when we’re talking about with true addictions. Not the same.
So using a term like “addiction” when we’re talking about something our kids enjoy, sends all sorts of confusing messages. Messages about judgement from you, messages affecting their own self-esteem.. Messages to make them think something is wrong with them because they enjoy videogames. I’d like you to rethink this.
Haven’t we all had a hobby we loved - and maybe spent a lot of time on?
Or a project that we immersed ourselves in and we lost track of time?
Isn’t that what’s really happening with the kids and their devices?
Unschooling parents have a unique position here because we have so much time with our kids. You have plenty of time to find out if there’s an underlying problem - or if they’re simply enjoying themselves. Maybe it’s time to lean toward what you’re considering the problem, and gather more information, connect more with your child.
And it would be really helpful to stop referring to this as an addiction. Instead, think more positively. Use words like immersion, engrossed, fascinated or fully engaged. When we think about the kids’ interest in this way, we connect more, our fears lessen. We can see that all this dedication is helping them become an expert in certain things that are important to them. That in itself is a transferable skill that they’ll be able to take with them as they get older. That persistence and grit that it takes to stay with something even if it’s hard - especially if it’s hard - to attain the goal. Another life skill they’re learning through gaming. As we start to make this shift, we can celebrate that they’re passionate about gaming! There’s nothing wrong with that!
Do you see the difference in shifting how we talk about it?
Sure, kids may be spending a lot of time on their devices. And you may want more time with them or long for life a few years ago when they were younger. Welcome to parenting. But some of that might have to do with their developmental phase. And some of it might have to do with what else is on the buffet, so to speak, at your house. Maybe it’s time to brainstorm with them about where they are now and what their interests are.
Don’t be surprised if they tell you that gaming IS what they want to do.
How can you support it?
How can you show that you value what they value?
How can you learn more about it so you're not so afraid of it?
If you’re new to lifting some of these limits, you may find kids cling to their technology. But as they see that you aren’t going to flip flop, that they can come back to it even if they step away to help you wash the dog, they won’t feel as desperate to hang onto it.
If brainstorming sounds like a good idea, but you could use a little help with it, this PDF is what you need!
We're so conditioned to be told what to do next, we sometimes forget that there's a whole world out there ready for us to explore with the kids! This Guide offers insights and suggestions for twenty different categories - and is an awesome way to connect more with your kids and enjoy life together!
About "Screen Limits"
Another quick note… when you hear people say that unschoolers don’t believe in 'limiting screentime,” I want you to know that they’re leaving off a few critical pieces.
Unschoolers don’t believe in ARBITRARY limits - for anything really. Including technology. No random, 2 hours allowed kind of thing. What’s realistic in the day today? That’s your starting place.
And when you prioritize communication and connection with your kids, partnering with them to help them as well as be inspired and reassured ourselves… this concept of screen limits begins to fall to the wayside.
Every time I start to talk about technology and unschooling, I feel like I only get to the tip of the iceberg! And we’re already coming to the 10 minute mark, so I’m going to wrap this up.
But this is why I created the Unschooling Guide about Technology. I have so much more in there to help you peel back your fear, see what’s really going on, and connect more with your kids. It’s a fabulous Guide! I’ll leave a link for it.
They’re not addicted to technology. They enjoy it. They learn a lot from it. They may need help managing it - and that’s why it’s important for you to dig in and see what YOUR motivations are and if they’re rational and aligned with this partnership we’re trying to create with our kids.
We talk about this a lot in the membership group - so if you need to bounce ideas off of other families in the same boat, join us. I’m doing 3 group coaching calls every week - plus a variety of other ways to help you. And that Unschooling Guide about Technology is included in the membership!
So that’s it from me for now. Enjoy the kids. Happy Unschooling! And we’ll talk again next week!