Fun without Technology – The 3 Week Challenge

Growing up is a serious business and these days it’s far more serious than it ever was before. Whilst children may appear to have far more than they have ever had at their disposable by way of shiny new things, colourful new toys made of plastic, endless access to technology, how is it possible that they are not having as much fun as they should be? In years gone by young people were much more self-reliant and creative in how they filled their time, but these days they are surrounded by endless stimulation. A great deal more of a child’s time is spent inside with physical products to entertain them. In addition, there has been a drastic change in family lifestyle. Parents are working harder, longer hours and family time is rarer, often interrupted and distracted by electronic devices. This adds to an increased feeling of disconnection between children and the rest of the family. It means that young people are lonelier than they have been in the past because even though they may have hundreds or even thousands of connections and followers on Instagram, it’s just not the same as playing football in the park or going shopping with your mates.

In order to change this growing social issue, parents will need to be brave, focused, and become better role models than they perhaps had been in the past. If you are a parent reading this article right now, here are some suggestions that you can choose to use or not. I would urge you to put them into action for three weeks. Let your children know in advance that you are going to be doing a three week experiment where there are going to be some new rules and standards, and everyone has to commit to it including yourself. After the three weeks are up, you are going to sit down with each other and talk about which lifestyle you liked better.

*I will caution you that this challenge is not going to be easy, but there may be some important learning to come out of it. Whilst you may not choose to adopt all of the suggestions that I have given below, you may find a happy medium between how things are currently and what the three-week challenge has to offer.

  1. Device limitations

Monday to Friday I would like you to all make a commitment to put your mobile phones in a box or a basket, somewhere safe and out of the way, as soon as you get in from work or school. Unless there is an urgent call coming in, that’s where they will stay. The problem with always having your mobile phone on your or near you is that even if you’re just picking it up to respond to something, it’s easy to get distracted and end up doing a whole host of other things. If your child is going to find this difficult to do, such that it will cause too much disruption, start out by allowing them one hour (to do whatever socialising they need to do online) and then set the curfew in place. Notice how the weeks pass by, the impact that this has on your child’s ability to concentrate, engage better and perhaps to even lighten and positively shift their mood.

      2. Restrict computer games to weekends only and for a maximum of 2 hours at any one time.

You may have heard of something called the Tetris effect. This is based on an experiment where people were encouraged to play Tetris for four hours every day. Tetris is an old school computer game whereby you fit building blocks together. The participants of the experiment discovered that they began to dream about Tetris, and some would even walk down the street and be able to fit buildings into each other as they would do so in the game. This demonstrated that whatever you do consistently, starts to become your reality. If your child is playing aggressive, violent, or negative video games for extended periods of time, or over consistent periods of time, the messages that that game brings with it will become their reality and they will start to act and react based on the emotions that that game encourages. Now if your child happens to be playing a computer game where the goal is to perform random acts of kindness and show love and compassion towards others, then that kind of programming would definitely have its benefits. However, to my knowledge, this computer game does not exist because it isn’t very exciting. The most exciting games are normally filled with high-intensity negative emotions whereby the actions that the gamer performs would not be appropriate in day to day life. For this reason, I urge you to restrict the amount of time that your child spends gaming for three weeks, and notice the difference that it makes.

        3. Bonding

Having put in place all or the majority of the points above, there is another really important step that you must follow in conjunction. That is to ensure that during the three-week challenge, you have some ideas ready to go regarding how you are going to interact with your child during this period of time, and what you are going to be doing together. If you put these restrictions in place and do not offer anything to counteract what you are removing, then you will have a rebellion on your hands (and if anything is going to make this challenge unsuccessful it will be having to deal with a rebellion). I have some recommendations for how you might fill the time of your young person during the three weeks that they are performing the three-week challenge. Note too that these will need to be adjusted to suit the personality type of your child.

a. Make sure that you have at least one outdoor activity that you do with your child every week that will fill up a significant period of time, be that taking the dog for a walk, going to the park, going to visit somewhere/someone – something that gets you outside and physically moving together. This is a great opportunity to converse and connect, and even though you may have a sullen, sulky pre-teen who doesn’t want to verbally engage with you, knowing that you are easily accessible to them might actually be incredibly meaningful. You’ll notice as you come towards the end of the three weeks, that your child is sleeping better because their brains aren’t being filled up with blue light before they go to bed. As a result of this, you should also notice some significant shifts in their mood and patterns of behaviour.

b. Get your child doing something creative. Can they help you with some painting? Can they do a piece of artwork for fun? Could they make something? Maybe there is a craft kit that you could buy for them or something that they could design. Make sure that during your three-week challenge, your child has a creative project to work on that won’t be over and done within one day -something that they need to commit to.

c. Get your child cooking with you at least once a week, during each week of the three-week challenge. Teach them life skills and get them to help prepare a dish from start to finish. By the end of the three weeks, your child will have learnt three dishes that they can cook! They don’t have to be super healthy and nutritious, they just need to feel like they took part.

d. Have a clear out. Get your child to go through their wardrobe and pick out the clothes that are too old or small for them. Likewise with their shoes and coats. Get together a few bags of things that you can donate, maybe some ornaments that are looking a bit old or tired, and allow your child to experience the warm fuzzy feeling of taking them to a homeless shelter or charity shop, knowing that their belongings are now going to help other people who couldn’t afford to buy something new.

e. Have your child perform a random act of kindness. When I explain a random act of kindness, I tell my young people that there are two things to know about it. The first part is the randomness. This means that for the receiver of the act of kindness, the act was completely unexpected. It was not something that they had anticipated and it came as a complete surprise. The kindness part is about doing something nice, so it can’t be something that you were supposed to do anyway, like buying someone a birthday card. That’s to be expected if it’s their birthday, but a random act of kindness is when you do something nice for someone and they had not expected you to do it. The other important thing in performing a random act of kindness is that you don’t do so to seek praise or thanks, or even acknowledge it. Many random acts of kindness are totally anonymous and the performer may never receive acknowledgement for what they did.

This three-week challenge is guaranteed to stretch both you and your young people, and I urge you to perform it with as much commitment as you possibly can, taking the time, in the end, to evaluate as a family the effect that it has had. If your child is experiencing any other adverse experiences in their life as a result of spending too much time with technology, and not enough time having real-life fun, then it may be worth coming to see me for a free consultation session, to find out what issues might be troubling them. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a someone who is disconnected from you about what your worries are, and young people may find it difficult to speak freely and openly with their parents knowing that they may react unfavourably.

To book in for a free consultation session just give me call on the number on 07958 203 274, or fill out the box on the right side of this page to send me an email. I work in and around the areas of Crays Hill, Billericay, Basildon, Wickford, Southend-on-sea, Chelmsford, Colchester and Brentwood.

  By Gemma Bailey

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