Dear Dr. Linda,
In honor of March Madness, I wanted to share something I read in an article about Villanova’s coach, Josh Hart. Before games, he confiscates all his players’ electronics and removes the Wildcats from the modern world—no laptops, no tablets and, worst of all (to them), no cell phones.
This gave me an idea. I started confiscating my kids’ electronics every night until their homework is done. My kids, like Coach Hart’s players probably were at first, are angry with me. My mother thinks I’m wrong. Do you?
Before I comment, let me ask a question: Are your kids’ electronics affecting their studying and, as a result, their grades? If so, it probably means that your children have not yet developed their own will power and may need you to do it for them like the coach. But if they don’t understand that it’s affecting their schoolwork, what will most likely happen is that they’ll get angry. The real questions relate to your relationship with your kids and whether they’re mature enough to manage their own behavior.
Cell phones, tablets, electronic games, Facebook and Twitter are just a few of the byproducts of the electronic revolution. They are irrevocably part of our lives. Are they distracting, even addictive? Again, it depends on the person. At the turn of the 20th century, the telephone began to be widely used. Did people spend hours on it? It depended on the person. When television was invented, did people watch too much television? Again, it depended on the person.
The point is that all of these forms of communication have to be used in moderation. They have a time and place. Are smartphones causing kids to get lower grades? Perhaps. But, what is probably causing kids to get lower grades is that they don’t practice enough or need help with the subject. It takes will power, organizational skills and time-management skills to do well in school. If a child has all three, they will be responsible enough to manage their own electronics. I know plenty of adults who spend hours watching TV, surfing the internet, or posting on Facebook, yet still manage to get the things done that they need to.
Instead of taking your children’s smartphones away, perhaps you could help them set up a schedule for when they do their homework, when they watch TV, go online, play video games, etc., and help them commit to a schedule. Set a good example for them, too. If you have a presentation at work the next day, don’t let them see you sneaking a look at that television show you just can’t miss—set the DVR and watch it after you’re done.
In the end, every day is precious and chances are that you’re not living in a monastery. You and your children are living in today’s world and there is no reason your children have to miss out on the true fun of the electronic world if they’ve learned good organizational and time management skills. From the time a child is small, establish routines and systems you can all live by.
And remember that you’re their role model for life—and not just until basketball season is over.