Could your kids go a week with­out SO­CIAL ME­DIA:

With al­most a quar­ter of UK school­child­ren on­line for over six hours a day, we asked Shona Sibary to see if her brood could go with­out...

Woman (UK) - - Real Life -

As a mother, it’s not easy to ad­mit I have lost con­trol. But as far as my two teenagers are con­cerned, I am ashamed to say that things have spi­ralled out of hand.

I’m talk­ing about the fact that An­nie, 17 and Monty, 15, are help­lessly ad­dicted to so­cial me­dia and their phones. I thought I was on top of things. But the other morn­ing Monty woke with a black eye from where he had fallen asleep ON his screen and I re­alised that I was deal­ing with a much big­ger prob­lem than I ini­tially thought. And it’s not just my teenagers. While my youngest, Dolly, eight, isn’t al­lowed on so­cial me­dia, she is glued to her ipad.

Statis­tics only add to the night­mare.

This um­bil­i­cal at­tach­ment to the phones we, as well-mean­ing par­ents, bought for them is, ap­par­ently, more ad­dic­tive than smok­ing. China has set up 400 treat­ment cen­tres for this pub­lic health threat to their teenage pop­u­la­tion. Ev­ery­thing I read is telling me that my chil­dren’s ob­ses­sion with so­cial me­dia can cause ADHD, anx­i­ety and child­hood de­pres­sion.

I can no longer ig­nore the fact that An­nie and Monty are be­ing held hostage by those de­vices they con­stantly stare at. What is needed – like any ad­dic­tion – is a detox. It’s prob­a­bly the most painful par­ent­ing de­ci­sion I have im­ple­mented since get­ting them to eat cherry toma­toes, but I can’t live with my­self if I don’t try.


‘what do you mean I can’t have my phone for a week?’ an­nie wails, look­ing at me with such in­cred­u­lous dis­be­lief you’d be for­given for think­ing I’d just told her that from now on we would be go­ing to the toi­let in a hole at the bot­tom of the gar­den. ‘But I NEED to do my Snapchat streaks. and how am I go­ing to know what ev­ery­one else has done tonight?’

well, I sug­gest, you could ask them, in the morn­ing, face to face. also, call me a Lud­dite, but I have no idea what ‘streaks’ are and I’m pretty sure that the sun will still rise in the morn­ing if you stop do­ing them. So I’ve gone to bed tonight with only half my off­spring speak­ing to me. But at least I know they are in bed with­out their phones, so not speak­ing to any­one else ei­ther.


they’re slip­pery crea­tures, teenagers, and my two have clearly drawn up en­emy lines and agreed to change tack. nor­mally, ev­ery­one is head down over break­fast, ab­sorbed in in­sta­gram. to­day, how­ever, is the dawn of a new dig­i­tal-free era. ‘the thing is mum,’ monty be­gins, hand­ing me a piece of but­tered toast, ‘i re­ally need the alarm on my phone to wake me up in the morn­ing, so i’m not re­ly­ing on you to get me out of bed.’ an­nie nods vig­or­ously. ‘i promise i’m not on so­cial me­dia at night. i’m just, like, lis­ten­ing to mu­sic as i fall asleep.’ it was at this pre­cise mo­ment that two pigs flew past the win­dow and keith and i laughed loudly in the faces of my two des­per­ate teens.


Hell hath no fury like a teenager with no phone and mine are ap­par­ently no ex­cep­tion. I’m guilty of: 1. Ruin­ing their lives, 2. Turn­ing them into so­cial out­casts and 3. De­mol­ish­ing their In­sta­gram fol­low­ings. Do I give a hoot? no, I do not. I read to­day that ex-face­book pres­i­dent Sean Parker has said, ‘God knows what [so­cial me­dia] is do­ing to our chil­dren’s brains.’ I want my kids to be tech savvy and don’t want to alien­ate them from their peers. Ban­ning them from so­cial me­dia feels like a mod­ern ver­sion of lock­ing them in a bed­room. But there has to be a limit. The prob­lem is know­ing where the limit is.


boy, it’s been a long week. yet i’m as­ton­ished at the im­prove­ment in an­nie and monty’s gen­eral com­mu­ni­ca­tion and mood around the house. once they ac­cepted i wasn’t budg­ing, they had no choice but to ac­cept the dig­i­tal detox that had been im­posed upon them and while they haven’t quite sur­ren­dered wholly to the idea, they have to ad­mit that planet earth is still turn­ing with­out their pres­ence on­line. they’ve even played cards – i kid you not.


Two days in and I think in ad­dic­tion terms we are en­ter­ing the ‘de­nial’ stage. The kids can see I mean busi­ness and have ex­hausted ev­ery pos­si­ble rea­son why they need their phones and why I, as a re­spon­si­ble par­ent, MUST hand them back over. It’s a bit like deal­ing with a rag­ing al­co­holic look­ing for their last bot­tle of vodka. I find monty, in a fit of fury, fling­ing my un­der­wear drawer out onto my bed be­cause he ‘has’ to find his phone for home­work and don’t I re­alise I’m im­ped­ing his chances of pass­ing any GCSES? Do I wa­ver in my con­vic­tion? Do I heck. I feel more de­ter­mined than ever that this at­tach­ment to their de­vices has to stop. Keith agrees, although I caught him hand­ing Dolly her banned ipad ear­lier. She’s Daddy’s lit­tle girl, so I’m go­ing to have to be bad cop.


We ac­tu­ally had a proper con­ver­sa­tion over din­ner tonight, with noth­ing ping­ing and vi­brat­ing in the back­ground. i don’t al­low phones at the ta­ble, but even if they’re put aside there is al­ways an in­vis­i­ble dis­trac­tion, a sense that some­thing is be­ing missed out on. monty and an­nie’s at­ten­tion is there, but it isn’t. this evening, how­ever, was dif­fer­ent. even they could sense that they’d been re­leased from this hold and for the first time in ages, they were ‘prop­erly’ present in the room.


Just as I sense I’m fi­nally get­ting some­where, to­day is the day I have agreed to hand back the phones. It’s galling, be­cause I feel I’ve bro­ken their ob­ses­sive us­age but I know now, more than ever, that they’ve had too much free­dom on­line and strin­gent con­di­tions will be put in place from now on. For ex­am­ple, no phones af­ter lights out, and proper pe­ri­ods at the week­end where I will in­sist on dig­i­tal-free fam­ily time. what the last week has taught me is that it is very much for monty and an­nie’s own good. and I think, deep down, they know this too.

Could Monty get through a week with­out In­sta?

Shona knew she was fac­ing a tough chal­lenge

An­nie be­fore fac­ing a Snapchat-free life

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