Our no gadget week: how our gadget-addicted kid got through it

This is not going to be a lengthy post berrating parents who let their kids watch endless shows on youtube. This is not going to be one that will judge those who give in and hand a kid the phone when he’s on the verge of throwing a major fit.

Because to be honest, I am like that too. Like most of you I have used my phone as a baby sitter one too many times.

When you’re at your wits end with a deadline looming, so many chores piling up, and bored kids whining, with no other childcare option available you get desperate. And the next best option, you think to yourself, is to grab a phone that will keep your kids entertained even just for a few minutes while you finish your work or cook dinner.

Just this once you tell yourself. Until it’s not just the kid who’s addicted to the phone but you too. You get hooked on the convenience it brings and the tiny moment of peace when your kid has his face glued to the screen. You get hooked on the number of things you get to do when he’s busy with his phone and not bugging you for attention.

I get that. So no judgement here.

But let me tell you about that time we finally realized its time to change things. Because my kid got so hooked.

He got so addicted to using the Internet that he would wake up earlier than everyone else so he can use the phone without us nagging him about it. He stopped using his toys. He barely went into the playroom. This I saw as a wake up call. Especially when he would have a melt down when we’d try to take the gadget away. He seemed like a child in the middle of an exorcism.

He would turn into a terrible, impatient, irritable little ball of mess when he spends too much time on Youtube or any other things he uses online. It was bad. And we had to do something about.

I talked to my husband and decided to put my foot down and finally enforce a no gadget, no Internet policy at home for both my kids.

It wasn’t even slowly and gradually reducing his Internet time. We did this cold turkey.

No gadget, no Internet, no phone, no iPad and television for a week.

And let me tell you, the first few days were horrible. It was difficult both for him and for us too.

WITHDRAWAL

It was like taking alcohol away from an alcoholic. The first day he cried his eyeballs out asking and demanding for the phone. As if a fundamental right was taken away from him.

He would roll on the floor, and at first demand for the gadget then eventually beg for the phone like a deranged person.

A part of me pitied my son. I felt guilty because I felt I did this to him. I let this happen. Those three years I spent working and leaving him with nannies were three years he spent developing this bad addiction.

The nannies would let him watch TV or surf the Internet in his iPad while I was away slaving in the office till late. And when I left my job and decided to work from home I too reinforced this addiction by using the iPad as a substitute caregiver.

It was a realization that was hard to swallow. i felt like a bad mother. The first few days wheh I would see him roll on the floor and cry for his iPad were difficult. I would go to the bathroom and cry.

But it also assured me of how much this is needed to be done.

I kept telling my husband not to be tempted to give his gadgets back. The worst of his withdrawal stage lasted for around four to five days.

On day 6 he started talking and explaining how bored he felt. So I would play with him in his playroom.

And slowly he started playing with his other toys again. The he started playing with his sister. It was so beautiful to watch. They would tumble and wrestle , giggle and laugh.

His no gadget week turned into another no gadget week. Until he lasted a whole month without gadgets. On the third week ofcourse we let him watch TV when he started acknowledging that even the TV use has limits.

Limits he would enforce on his sister too.

WHAT HAPPENED SURPRISED US

We saw drastic changes in my son in the weeks without gadgets. Beautiful changes that made the effort worth it.

He started being more attentive and more calm. All of a sudden I had a little man who would help me clean the room, arrange books, organize his toys.

He went back to doing chores in the kitchen like setting the table and wiping the table and chairs after meals. He would help me bake and cook.

He finally utilized the play room I fixed and got all his HotWheels out.

When he wakes up in the morning these days he would get his HotWheels in the playroom and play alone.

He stopped having migraines. He stopped throwing fits and has become more calm.

I would sometimes walk in on him reading books to his baby sister. He does not throw a fit when he’s upset and instead asks me questions about things that upset him. He rarely gets upset these days.

He has become more active, more playful and happy. No more outbursts and fits.

After a month of taking away his gadgets my kid rarely asks for the phone anymore because he already knows he’s not allowed to use it.

Last week we let him share a phone with his sister but explained that he will get to use it for 15 minutes. After the 15 minute mark he handed us the phone.

At home he took all his toys out of the box and fights boredom by building lego bridges, playing pretend with his sister, using our shoe boxes as a robot head or arm.

They run around and scream their heads off around the house. They take stuff from the drawers and use them to build pretend castles.

My house is noisy and a total mess but I’d rather have this than a clean, quiet place with gadget zombies who have their faces glued on the screen the whole day.

Author: Loraine Balita-Centeno

I'm a Manila based journalist who's been working in the industry for 12 years. I've written pieces for newspapers and magazines based in Manila and some abroad. I'm a work-at-home-mom of two so I spend my days writing or editing with a toddler clamped around one leg and a pre-schooler asking me questions every 10 minutes.

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