Teenagers cannot be stopped from using gadgets. That’s equivalent to telling somebody to stop using the bed, as a friend puts it,” said Ysabel Acosta in “Growing Up Wired,” a 2013 study I did with counselors and parents regarding the gadget habits of more than 4,000 students in Ateneo de Manila and Miriam high schools.
“Parents can however lessen the amount of time children spend with gadgets. Give them a time limit, and define everything explicitly. Teenagers have a well-developed skill of finding loopholes in family rules, like using the iPad when banned from using the desktop,” she added. Navigating gadgets wisely is even more important now with online learning in the pandemic. In the past weeks, we looked at the concerns of parents who are anxious about their children getting distracted, playing games, doing social media while the latter are supposed to be in a virtual classroom. We discussed discipline and self-regulation, but now let us hear from teens who control gadgets rather than the other way around.
“Forcing teens usually leads to both parents and children getting angry,” said Acosta, who was in Miriam High School in 2013. “We have a tendency to get stubborn and rebel when pushed too hard. Communication is important. If (or should I say when?) teens protest that their online limit time is too little, sit down and discuss why … and reach a sensible agreement.” “One reason we teens lack social skills and academic focus is the pull of online gaming and social networking, where we shield ourselves and create our own world in cyberspace,” said Matthew Leland Gue, then a high school student at Xavier School and now a college graduate from the University of Southern California.
“Having foreseen this problem, my parents implemented controls on net access to two hours a day and used for school work only. I was only allowed to use my game consoles on weekends. For online projects, I ask for additional computer time to finish my work. I find these restrictions fair enough since they taught me to manage time. I may not be as actively involved as others on social media, but a sacrifice is needed to achieve a goal, which is why these restrictions are actually a blessing in disguise,” he added. His friend Ethan Zachary Chua, now in Stanford University, plays games to relax. “However, gaming is not the only thing I do. I also read books, study for school, and actually talk with friends. To have enough time for everything, it is important to balance between gaming and other hobbies and responsibilities.” “I prioritize things,” Chua continued.
“I put homework before gaming. I don’t allow myself to play games until I have finished all necessary projects. Gaming isn’t everything. In the long run, your high scores in games won’t matter. In real life, it’s the friends we’ve made and the things we’ve achieved that do matter. Find something that’s worthwhile and naturally satisfying. When we find a hobby we truly enjoy, writing stories or playing music, we find ourselves gaming less but achieving more,” he said. Acosta agreed. “Hand us a book, give us errands, make us exercise. Eliminating the reasons we use gadgets and giving us other things to do is a great way to cut gadget time. We mostly use gadgets when we have nothing else to do anyway. Less gadget time gives the family more time to bond with each other.” Rafael Ignacio Dionisio, now an entrepreneur who graduated from Ateneo de Manila University, talked about friends who flunked school because of gaming addictions.
“Computers are tools, a means to an end,” he said.
“They must be handled responsibly. If a teen has no self-control, then the computer can hurt him, much as a sword hurts the wielder if he does not know how to use it. Children need to be responsible and disciplined, so they can use computers to their advantage,” he said. “Growing Up Wired” is available at the Anvil Publishing website.
Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at www.lazada.com.ph. Contact the author at [email protected]
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