What if we could turn back the clock on intrusive technology?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a huge fan of tech.  Maybe I’m too much of a fan…

old phoneBut, there are times when you want your kids to be in the ‘now.’  You want them to pay attention, listen, and interact with you.

Dinnertime is traditionally the sacred time where no interruptions are tolerated.  Why do I often have to spy the phone concealed under the table while my kids try to covertly text their friends?

“Dad, it’s so unfair,” my kids say.  “All of my friends are allowed to have their phones at dinner.”  Yeah, and monkeys can fly.  I’m sure parents out there have heard similar accusations that “you” are the only parent setting limits.

Theoretically, we could take the cordless phones, smart phones, cell phones, tablets, etc. and lock them in a closet.  We actually have an old land-line phone in the basement for emergencies (i.e. power outages).  It’s the only reason why we haven’t jettisoned the home phone – a growing trend with younger generations who don’t see the purpose of a land-line phone (or have never seen one!).

Imagine only having a land-line phone in the house.  No voicemail or caller ID.  How would your kids deal with this situation?  I think my kids would go through the common stages of mourning – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and more anger.  I don’t think they’d ever reach the stage of acceptance.

How could they?  We can’t go back in tech-time, nor do we want to go back.  But, our senses are continually assaulted by text chimes, ringing phones, flashing icons, and devices vibrating incessantly.

The point of the exercise would be meaningless.  We would hope our kids realize that it’s OK to let that one text message wait until the end of dinner let that one call go into voicemail.

Until we adults can overcome these urges, how we can’t expect our kids to do the same? Good luck with that…

 

Signs of smart phone addiction (kids and adults)

Drum roll, please…

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10.  A full battery charge barely lasts the day.

My kids have ingeniously procured these nifty battery pack/cases.  They are a protective case and double the battery life.  Pretty cool, right?  Not when you find them under the covers at 1am still ‘gaming.’

9.  You download apps just for the fun of it.

My kids easily have over 200 apps, and counting.  Unfortunately, I think the latest roll-out of Apple’s iOS (with folder function) theoretically allows the user to downloand something like 2,800+ apps.  Why?  Because they say it’s fun to download them.

8.  You actually use more than 10 apps on a regular basis.

Some apps are necessary and useful (contacts, calendar, online banking, maps, etc.)  Other apps have become a part of our lives (Facebook, Twitter, Kindle, iTunes, etc.).  Do you really need and use all of the apps you have?  My kids literally have more than 10 different game versions (apps) of ‘Tomb Raider.’

7.  Realizing you forgot to bring your phone with is a panic-inducing.

On a recent trip to do some day-hiking, my son left is iPhone at home.  Close to tears, he wanted us to turn the car around when we were almost at our destination (about 30 minutes drive).  When she forgets her iTouch, my daughter has been known to just stare at my son’s iPhone while he plays it.

6.  You’re on your smart phone even when hanging out with friends.

When my kids hang out with your friends, say at the park or at the house, I’ve noticed times when everyone is on their smart phone.  Sometimes they can play the same game online – the “virtual play date.”

5.  You take your phone to the bathroom.

My kids’ bathroom visits have lengthened considerably since they started taking their devices in with them.

4.  You “dress up” your smart phone.

Simply put, you own more than one smart phone case and change them regularly just to mix things up.

3. You feel the need to respond immediately.

When that chime goes off or the phone rings, my kids immediately rush for their phones.  When this behavior interrupted dinner, I initiated the basket rule (they need permission to take out their devices).

 2. You feel restless and/or bored when your phone is not in your hands.

If you experience intense curiosity or even anxiety when you can’t check your texts, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever, you are hooked.

And, the number one reason you know your kid (or you) are a smart phone addict –

1. You are oblivious to where you are and who you are with.

When I had to start repeating everything 3 or 4 times, I knew distraction-prone smart phones had to go.  When I noticed my kids (and myself) unintentionally ignoring or neglecting family members and friends, I realized we all had a problem…

 

inspiration for signs of addiction from: Huff Post article by Carolyn Gregoire, iMore.com, allgrownup.com (all of these signs were aimed at adults…until now)

Good quote from the writer on allgrownup.com  “Is what I’m looking at my phone for more important than what I’m choosing to look away from?”

 

 

‘Chore Monster’ rocks!! You have to check this out…

This iPhone app came to my attention while listening to Bloomberg Radio, of all things!

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I had been mulling over today’s ‘Art of War’ inspired battle strategy with the kids, when I heard a segment about this app that helps you get your kids to help out around the house.

In the past, I had tried many of my own hastily concocted systems to get the kids to do basic chores and to help out around the house.  All of them were futile.  I had spent  hours putting together spreadsheets with title like “complete these items and get a star;  five stars equals one dollar.”  Out of desperation, I even tried a much different approach with, “You do [this] bad thing and you get a red ‘X.’  Five red X’s means you owe me five dollars…”

Pathetic, really.

But, someone with a lot of time and creativity has finely honed a more engaging and entertaining system of tracking chores and doling out rewards.   I think the concept works so well because of its simplicity, fun graphics, and its transparency.

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To begin, I prioritized the chores that were most important to us.  Picking up ‘stuff’ around the house was a top priority.  Books, clothes, toys and various electronic devices had taken over our floors and kitchen counters.

The key in assigning chores is to keep it short and simple, in my opinion.  We tried to keep the list from being overwhelming.  In a stroke of genius (if I can say that about myself), I assigned the largest allocation of points to a bedtime of 9pm.  Walking the dog once per day, 5 points.  Picking up clothes and dirty underwear off of the bathroom floor, 10 points.

You can set frequency, due dates, and make special notes for each chore.  If a given chores exceeds the due date, the icon becomes enveloped in bright flames.  When your child submits a chore as completed, you have control to verify and approve the taks’s completion.

Now the key part: REWARDS.  We wanted to be creative with the rewards to keep our children  enthusiastic.  It was also important to fairly allocates enough points to a given chore so that our kids could reap the benefits.  When you accept the chore as completed, your kids get a very satisfying “good job done” graphic on their end.  Then, the child is prompted to select from the available awards.

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We offered up 30 minutes of ‘screen time’ (Xbox -ughh, TV, computer games,etc) for 25 points.  The beauty here is that you can control how many ‘screen-time’ awards are available.

 

Other reward offerings include ice cream, sleep-overs, and choosing the family movie of the week.  If you give this app a test run, you will see that the goal-oriented enthusiasm is contagious.

To really make it a race to the top, we set a bonus of $20 for 500 points in a given week.  Not quite a bribe, this goal-oriented economic incentive has made all the difference in the world for us.

We now give fewer ultimatums, engage in less browbeating, and have more time to relax…with the kids!

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The only drawback: your entire family needs to be in possession of Apple-based devices.  Which, quite frankly, means your kids are already spoiled and in need of some serious chore-doing anyway.  An Android version is coming soon.  But, you will not get the immediate, real-time point accumulation and resultant reward endorphin rush unless your kids have iPhones or iTouches.