EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 28, 2012

How do I unplug my kid from his devices?

Family Matters Dr. Larry Larsen
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Maybe other people can tell if they are having the same experience we are. It is hard to talk with a teen who is always plugged in. We are guilty because we have bought the plug-ins which include an iPod and a smart phone complete with video game access. It’s too late to take them away. How do we return to some family conversation?

There are some interesting studies that suggest you are onto something.

It is probably true that social networking has actually decreased social contact and interaction. It has, at the very least redefined it.

It also appears, on the basis of similar studies, that the glut of information has resulted in less actual knowledge.

There are problems with how these two things are measured, but it would seem we are becoming less socially competent and more stupid in the midst of exponentially greater “connectedness.” The flow of contact and information has resulted in less attention to both. Are we becoming deaf to that which is real?

Your best defense is in the family. Insist on a “device free” time, preferably the evening meal. Around the diner table the family can relax. Insist everyone be there with only the most dire reason to miss. Then, have a hidden agenda. Really listen to your kids. Use humor to lighten the mood. Share a great story. Avoid the grilling, i.e. “How was school today? Did you do well on your test?”

Promote a quick mental game or puzzle. For example, try some riddles. “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?”

Answer: “Only one, but the bulb really has to want to be changed.”

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Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, you can e-mail Dr. Larsen at lrryllrsn@CS.com.