Electronics Part One
Rabbi Ross. Thank you for your help, it’s been much appreciated. I’m sure you received many similar questions, but I’m really at a loss. My kids love to play their iPads and iPods. It could be 85 degrees outside, and they want to sit and play, and they always end up fighting with each other about who had the longer turn. I’m scared to take it away, since they complain everyone else plays all the time. I’m so confused. A.G. – Woodmere
This is a very common issue, and there is much to discuss. Therefore, I’m breaking this down into two parts. This week we’ll analyze the issue and its repercussions, and next week we’ll work on a solution. As an added benefit, this enables me to ask all of you to share your suggestions for next week in the comments section.
It’s a new generation, and with it some interesting problems have arrived. As a kid I used to play video games as well. Donkey Kong, Tetris, Pac Man and a few others. However, the games today are very different. Here’s how it works.
Most of the games for iPads use advertising as a primary source of revenue. Therefore, they want your kids to play as often as possible so they can show the advertisers that each online player is continuously logged in. How do they accomplish this? It’s pretty simple actually.
Many of these games are created to be addictive. They require logging in to stay updated, and earn points when they spend time online playing. It becomes an actual addiction. Whereas we look at the games and think, “How can they enjoy these games?”, these kids actually feel the need to play.
However, these games are actually different than typical addictions. With a normal addiction, you feel a sense of relief after you’ve “fed” the addiction. With these games, the kids just get moody or frustrated. Many parents get equally frustrated and end up saying “That’s it! No iPad for a week!” Two hours later your son is complaining, “I’m so bored.” It gets even more tricky if your kids have to *gasp* share a device. They begin to argue about the games, amount played, and more.
There are some additional issues with electronics. I’m fond of telling over a story that happened a few years ago. During a league game of baseball, a new boy joined our floundering team. He was certainly dressed for the part; he was wearing a Derek Jeter jersey, some fancy sneakers, and sunglasses worth more than my Shabbos suit. This boy told me that he was a pitcher and a power hitter, and I was thrilled to pick up additional talent.
To make a long story short, he walked the first 4 batters he faced. He also struck out badly each time out at the plate. I went over to him after the game and said, “Don’t worry about it, it’s a new environment.” He replied, “I don’t know what happened, I’m so good at the Wii!” It seems he had never actually played the physical game in his life!
To make matters even worse, these electronics exacerbate a serious condition that is affecting the entire world, namely lack of social skills and the ability to communicate verbally. Playdates are becoming a thing of the past, and when they do occur kids expect their parents to set them up. Shadchanim have pointed out that this is negatively affecting the dating scene as well. Awkward silences have become the norm as these young men and women try to navigate through the tricky waters of dating without looking at a screen or sending a text.
If this isn’t scary enough, there are doctors that believe that this constant visual stimulation causes a plethora of problems in our children. There is insomnia, ADHD, obesity and a whole bunch more. One mother told me her kids can’t even watch a video or sports game anymore without a break to play on their respective devices. Apparently, whenever there is a talking scene, her kids quickly glance down on their iPods to update or whatever it is they are doing. Granted, this is not a problem only affecting our communities and societies, but it is definitely affecting our children.
Not convinced we have a problem? Think about car rides now versus when you were a kid. It used to be that we played games in the car, fought with our siblings, listened to music, read and so on. Now? Watching a video or playing an iPad is the norm, at times even on a short car ride. Yes, there are definitely good parts to this as well. Some games are educational, can keep the kids quiet on a rainy day, and these devices can even have a Siddur. I still think we have a huge problem.
I think the eight main questions we need to answer are:
Although I’ll be answering these questions and many more next week, I would love to hear from you all.
What are your thoughts and ideas? Please leave your comment below. We would love to read it!
5/12/2016 05:18:34 pm
I am stumped and I can't wait for next week to read our answers. However, I think the Siddur App is a step backwards. What's wrong with using a Siddur?!
5/12/2016 05:23:37 pm
I feel like these questions are talking about my family. I strongly believe that it's because we as parents are always on our phones all the time. Aren't we all "PROUD" of our 1 year old that he can swipe our phones?
5/12/2016 05:30:05 pm
Here's another question. Are we making an issue out of nothing? Rabbi Ross, I love your e-mails, and I'm a picky person. However, why not just go with the flow? My kids play a lot, and they are not addicted at all.
5/12/2016 05:40:45 pm
Great questions. My answer would be, this should be dealt with by the schools. Let the teachers teach the kids how to interact and be more social. They should also educate kids about the dangers of using iPods and the like.
5/12/2016 05:42:56 pm
Rabbi Ross. Perhaps parents should have a special room dedicated to electronics. This way, kids learn that it's not a anywhere activity, it's limited to a specific location. On the other hand, parents would need to use the room as well.
5/12/2016 05:50:35 pm
It's all about how it's presented. If we make a big deal out of electronics, it becomes more exciting. I always just give a beer alternative. Sure you can play - I'm going shoe shopping.
5/12/2016 07:58:38 pm
I would love to read next week's article. I have had it up to here with the arguing about who plays more. My kids will spend their entire summer day playing PS4.
5/12/2016 08:09:00 pm
What I find works, is telling the kids how much they can play per week. This way they play less and learn to manage their time wisely.
5/12/2016 08:20:29 pm
This is truly a monumental problem that affect Yidden all over. The only advice I can give, is to realize that since it's addiction, taking it away when you get upset can really backfire. Imagine taking cigarettes from a smoker when he's upset. That's when he needs them most!
5/12/2016 08:31:53 pm
Here's my advice. Move to a community where it's not such an issue. If you bring your kids into a place where these devices are the norm, you can't complain about them.
5/12/2016 08:37:07 pm
I'm all out of ideas, but I'm looking forward to your next article!
5/12/2016 09:40:15 pm
Rabbi Ross. I think that it's crucial for the parents to lead by example. Tell your kids that you both realize how addictive tibia, and you're cutting back. It'll have a better effect that way.
5/13/2016 07:06:30 am
I'm in the same boat. It's easier for me to just give in.
5/13/2016 08:46:46 am
Good Morning. I have found that my kids are reasonable if I show them I understand their desires. I allow them to play games, but not any that require Internet access.
5/13/2016 03:55:46 pm
My wife and I discuss this all the time. This is a very general concept, as there are variables in each situation. If it's raining like it is now, we're more easy going. Sunny? They need to go outside.
5/13/2016 04:46:09 pm
All good questions. Another question is, what's the best filter for these devices? Looking forward.
5/16/2016 02:48:31 pm
Rebbi, you hit the nail on the head. I think that many parents have the same concerns. Some don't think it's an issue, but then again there are so many parents who themselves may be addicted to their devices without even realizing that it's an addiction. I look forward to your updates and suggestions. My kids express many of the 'symptoms' you have described, even in children as young as 3.
5/20/2016 01:29:44 pm
Excellent points by a brilliant educator!
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Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.