It was rather insidious, how my four- and six-year-old sons became addicted to the computer. They’d been allowed on the computer for a year or so, and I’d noticed that their time spent online had been increasing. With a brand new baby in the house, though, it was just way too easy to let the computer be their chief source of entertainment. I’d rationalized, after all, that at least with the computer they were thinking and interacting — more than I could say about hours spent in front of the television. I further rationalized that our computer is in a central location in the middle of the house, so I always knew which websites they were on or which video games they were playing.

I’m sure that, at one point during the summer, they were up to a couple of hours a day online. An hour or so in the morning, maybe another mid-afternoon and another session after dinner. It didn’t take long to add up. I’d been aware of the problem and bothered by it, knowing they were on the computer too much but not sure how to effectively cut down online time without making everyone miserable. Which is right about when the motherboard died. With no notice whatsoever, toward the end of August, the whole thing seized up. Off to the big box retailer whence it came it was shipped for repairs — luckily for us, still under warranty. And that’s how my boys (and I) had to deal with quitting the computer cold turkey.

It was gone for a little more than six weeks. Seemed much longer. The first week, I thought my four year old would implode. The oldest has always been good at entertaining himself. With no computer, he’d draw and colour or build intricate star ships from Lego. The four year old was bereft. It was worse when school started and the oldest was away all day while the four year old only attended school in the mornings. Afternoons seemed endless with no playmate and no computer to play on, he turned to me for entertainment. I’m only good for so many games of Trouble and Concentration before my own head is ready to implode, not to mention the demands on my time and attention from his baby brother.

Funny thing, though. By the time the computer was fixed, we didn’t miss it so much. The four year old had discovered a love of jigsaw puzzles and even liked to go out by himself and ride his bike in the driveway. Computer time became a treat instead of part of the daily routine. The boys were even better at sharing their time online and collaborating instead of arguing.

They’re now down to a much more reasonable 30 to 60 minutes a day, and I’ve eliminated one more source of mommy-guilt. If only I could get my own online addiction under control…

One Response to Rehabbing my kids from the computer

  1. vickiz
    Nov 25, 2008

    Did you see this article in today’s Globe and Mail?

    Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be Luddites

    This focuses on older children than yours, and the article admits that the study’s findings seem counterintuitive – that time spent communing with a computer screen actually benefits children’s socialization. The article also mentions the recent tragic story of Brandon Crisp, and evoking that particularly makes me of mixed mind about this thesis. What do you think?

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