Susannah Lewis knew she’d let things slide, but she didn’t know how bad it had become until she took away her son’s electronics.
As the mom of two, who blogs at Whoa! Susannah, wrote on Facebook, it started when her 8-year-old son got in trouble for getting on his iPod at midnight on a school night. As punishment, Lewis and her husband decided to take away all of his electronics for an indefinite amount of time. That meant no video games and no iPod.
Last week, The Boy (age eight) got in trouble and my husband and I decided, as his punishment, to take away all of his…
She may have expected her son to be disappointed, but she wasn’t prepared for how extreme his reaction would be:
[H]e flew into a fit of rage. In his anger, he even said some horribly disrespectful things to my husband and me. When I looked at him, screaming like a lunatic, he didn’t look anything like my sweet little boy. He wasn’t himself. It scared me to the point of tears.
To make it worse, the mom blamed herself for the depth of his game addiction. She had given him an iPad to entertain himself on road trips at the age of 3, and he’d loved video games ever since.
She’d also been the one to “cave” on the household screen time limits, sending her son off to play video games because she was busy or needed time to write. But Lewis says, “I just didn’t realize how addicted he was to them until my husband locked away every gaming console in the house.”
While she assumed her son’s personality would change a bit after the no-electronics rule went into effect, Lewis was amazed at how dramatic the transformation would be.
On the eighth day, she wrote that she used to think her son was so inattentive that he should be tested for ADD. But that was before the no screen time rule:
Without access to any devices, my son is attentive. I ask him to do something one time and it’s done. He’s not preoccupied with thoughts of gaming or too busy searching for his iPod or even so enthralled with a game that he has blocked out my voice.
And that’s not all. She wrote:
He is happier. He is kinder to his sister. He goes outside to play without me suggesting he do so. He hasn’t had a single fit of anger. He reads books or draws when he’s bored, and he loves it. His teacher said he’s more attentive. He hasn’t woken up late for school one time. He talks more. He looks out the window when we’re in the car and asks questions about trees and clouds and cows. I’ve never been so happy to play “I Spy” in my life.
While Lewis says she always knew that too much screen time could be harmful, she didn’t realize how many of her son’s behavior problems could be traced to it.
The Boy, 8yo, aspiring drummer, listening to "Midnight Rider": Mama, tell me more about this Allman Brothers Band.
“It’s as if these last 8-10 months, he’s been brainwashed — brainwashed with thoughts of Fortnite and Minecraft and Aliens Vs. Zombies and Roblox,” she wrote.
To help set a good example, Lewis decided to put away her phone more often. As a result, she’s been able to talk to her son and spend quality time with him.
Fifteen days into the electronics “detox,” Lewis finally let her son use his game console and iPod again. She called his response “miraculous.” She wrote on Facebook:
When his screen time was up, he got off without complaint. No begging. No crying. No, “Can I finish this level?” or “Fifteen more minutes, Mama, PLEASE!??”
He simply turned it off and found something else to do. No big deal.
When they informed their son he would only be allowed to have limited screen time on the weekends, they didn’t get a reprise of his earlier fit. Instead, he accepted the rule quietly and changed the subject to caterpillars.
Lewis shared the story in the hopes of helping other parents see how screen time limits can help improve their children’s behavior. She wrote:
If you have a child with anger issues or who is always in a bad mood — if you have a child who is inattentive or whines when he doesn’t get his way — if you have a child who is obsessed with gaming and needs a daily fix — I encourage you to enforce an electronics detox.
And her advice was encouraging to others. Parent after parent weighed in to talk about their own experiences with a detox (or to recognize how necessary they are):
Moreover, there was widespread agreement that video game and electronics addiction are a serious problem among kids and teens:
A few people took issue with Lewis for blaming gaming for her son’s behavior:
However, the mom clarified that she wasn’t claiming her son was representative of every child:
Kids who haven’t had these issues probably aren’t addicted like my son is. Some people can drink without consequences. Others become alcoholics. It’s the same. My daughter likes gaming but it doesn’t take over her life the way it has my son’s. If your child can play games daily and it have no negative outcome on his mind and behavior, consider yourself lucky.
After 15 days of detox, Lewis had gone from a mom who wanted to smash the PlayStation and iPod with a bat to one who was grateful to see a total change in her son. She concluded:
“My boy is happier. He’s kinder. He’s eager to learn and talk about things other than games. He’s interested in metamorphosis for Heavens sake! It’s good to have him back.”