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For years I’ve had the amazing privilege to be an educational mentor. I’ve mentored youth, young adults, and adults in several different countries around the world in a variety of situations.
The experience has been nothing short of fantastic. I loved being a mentor. I loved making a difference in other people’s lives. But I also noticed something that’s becoming more and more prevalent in today’s tech obsessed culture—screen addiction.
As I traveled and mentored all over the world, I often asked my students what one thing was keeping them the most distracted. What’s the one thing that’s keeping them from being their best self? From reaching their full potential?
Predictably, in almost every case, their response was, “a phone”, or “my video games”—anything with a screen. Our technology is dictating our lives. We’ve become slaves to a miniature device that makes noises!
But it’s a delicate balance. On the one hand, I teach online classes so I message parents, students and clients in Facebook. Most of us use email. There are so many great things to learn and a limitless supply of educational resources that even my own children are using online.
Because screen use can be so hard to balance, I’d like to offer a simple, low tech solution to help you and your children break the screen addiction.
Before I get to my solution, there’s one important point I need to make. If you’re a parent, it all starts with you. If you don’t make the necessary changes, there’s a slim chance your kids will either. If you’re not willing to step up and be an example, then your kids won’t either. You’ve got to be willing to do what you say and make it happen.
Now to my solution. The first step is to dream big. Set a big goal for something you want to accomplish and make it BIG. It should be a goal you can accomplish in a one year time frame. For example, maybe you can:
- read a book every week (or two books a week if you’re a fast reader)
- get into shape, work towards doing 100 consecutive push ups
- train to race in a triathlon or a marathon
- Mix it up by picking a physical goal, mental goal, and spiritual goal.
- What will you study? What will you commit to memorize? Another language?
Pick several areas where you know you’ll be motivated to keep going.
Also think about making a travel goal. Pick a place you’ve always wanted to visit and plan out a big adventure. Whatever it is, find something that lights your fire. Now you can work the conversation in with your kids. Give them a bigger vision, a purpose, and a plan. Remember, you’re the adult!
So, how do you start the conversation with your kids? Be sincere and genuine. Show them the list of things you want to accomplish in the next year. Get excited. Show them how you plan on accomplishing these goals. And tell them you’ll be making some serious sacrifices and can’t waste time—time spent mindlessly surfing the Web or scrolling through FaceBook.
Then you can turn the tables. Ask them the same questions. Give them a pen and a piece of paper. What’s something they’ve always wanted to do? What are they willing to save your money for? And offer them rewards if they meet their goals. If your daughter learns French, tell her you’ll take her to France on vacation next summer.
The important point is to give them an idea that they’ll have to make sacrifices for.
Wasting time will only derail their goals. Then set some standards for yourself. Tell them you’re only going to check your phone, or play video games, or whatever it is, for 10 minutes in the evening. Make it strict. Explain how you can accomplish great things if you put in the time.
We know we can’t go through life spending huge amounts of time on our gadgets. But it’s a delicate balance since our lives have become so dependent on technology. So get excited about your new goals!
Set a high standard for yourself. Get your child excited about a purpose, a mission, and a dream for themselves. Explain how these goals require a price. What price are they willing to pay? Are they willing to be disciplined and put in the time to make it happen? I promise it will be amazing. You’ll accomplish great things and have great experiences. And, more importantly, your kids will choose for themselves to step away from the screen—to get out and have great experiences too.