Thursday, January 27, 2011

There's gonna be a revolution!

My middle son, who is fourteen, has just inherited his older brother's laptop. Within only a matter of weeks he has become addicted to facebook. Some nights I get up to go to the loo and, even though I've asked him to turn his computer off hours ago, he is still sitting up in bed awake, on facebook.
As it's still the school holidays, this hasn't been too much of a problem because I know he can sleep in the next morning, and during the day I can monitor how much time he spends on his computer. But school starts back soon and I knew I'd have to get this addiction under control by then. So, one night I lay awake in bed worrying (as I'm prone to do) about how I could make sure he turned his computer off at night. I don't have anything against him chatting to his friends on facebook - but until two in the morning? I don't think so.
Then (as can often happen at night, along with all the worrying about what a bad mother I am) I had a stroke of genius. The wireless router is in our bedroom! All I had to do was SWITCH IT OFF AT THE WALL! Incredible! With one flick of the switch: no internet! (Don't worry, I can't believe how it took me so long to come up with that one either!)
So, the next evening after dinner I broke it to my teenage sons. Sons, I told them, every night starting that very evening I was going to switch the wireless off at the wall at 10pm. And, just because I was feeling cocky, I threw in another challenge: not only that, but I had decided that we were going to have wireless-free Sundays. Every Saturday night at 10pm, the wireless connection would be switched off at the wall and only come on again on Monday mornings. For one whole day a week, none of us would be able to lose hours of time and precious brain cells on youtube watching cats do stupid things. We would be liberated!
I looked at my sons expecting them to dissolve into hysterics or smash something against the wall but they just shrugged. I was astounded. Hmm... perhaps they thought I was bluffing? After all my 17 year old son told ME off for checking facebook messages on my iphone at the table the other day! I know. It was a new low.
Perhaps they think I will suffer more them? After all, the new rule was going to test out my resolve as much as theirs. But somehow I sensed my sons were almost relieved. My eldest has already admitted he hates how much time he spends on the computer, but since his grandmother brought him his own laptop two years ago it sits in his room like a magnet, tempting him, luring him in to facebook-youtube-blog-land (as it does to me!) Now, on Sundays, our laptops will become just a lifeless piece of junk and our lives can open up to: conversations! walks in the park! board games! I am half thrilled at the prospect, half terrified.
This Sunday will be our first. I'll keep you posted. Who knows? If it's a success, I might even push for wireless-free weekends.
Now THAT'S revolutionary!


  1. WOW!

    I can't wait to see how this turns out!

  2. "What a great idea!" she says as she's tapping away on laptop, and checking iphone,7 yr old daughter is on ipad, 9 yr old son on ipod and with hubby on couch next to her on his laptop whilst all trying to watch a "family" movie at same time!!!!
    Crazy huh? Spent the day at the zoo with kids to get out of house & social media but spent most of day head down tweeting & Fbooking & sharing photos on tumblr & posterous as well as FB & twitter via Picplz!

    We need to try this too.
    Good luck. We're all gonna need it.

  3. Thanks for re-posting, Megan.
    Melpomuse, let me know how you go! Perhaps we need to start a support group: MWLIA (mothers who limit Internet access). ;-)

  4. OMG That is so radical. And so brave! Sally you are the next Che Guevara. I want a T-shirt with you on the front sporting a red beret. I would like to be a fly on the wall at your place on Sunday. What will you play? Risk? Trouble? Twister? You should be so proud! jxx ps I too have wasted time on LOL Cats...

  5. My eldest three boys (10, 9 and 9) have just started getting interested in the internet (I've been too mean to share my computer before but now I have a new one and have let them have the old). I'm happy to see how quickly they are working it out for themselves (not FB yet - but emails and YouTube and BeastQuest pages...) but also wonder how vigilant I should be in guarding against internet addiction...

  6. Yeah, we haven't even got to our first Sunday yet, Jen. We might end up playing: surly teenagers, irritated Mum and exasperated partner. Kind of a risky troubled twister, really.

    Rebecca, I think it depends on your kids. My teenagers grew up with - wait for it - NO TV, until my oldest was seven. I loved it, but now I think I am paying the price. I reckon my teenagers are making up for all those lost years of screen time now that they can. If there is a screen in the room, they look at it. Even if it's blank. Admittedly, I'm a bit the same. I'm not one of those people that can have the telly humming along in the background while I'm doing other things. When it's on I can barely talk, let alone drag my eyes away from it - even during ad breaks. Yep, I'm even drawn to ads! So, truth be told my partner and I are terrible role models - this internet-free Sunday is as much for us as them. Who knows, we may even find out we can communicate with each other without using text or email! ;-)

  7. This experiment reminds me of an episode of Modern Family, where a state of no Internet, no mobile phones etc. was declared, and whoever could hold off the longest would reap a reward. The mother caved in before the oldest daughter who, cleverly using a cardboard cut-out of a mobile phone instead of the real thing, tricked the father into thinking he'd won. Whereupon the father announced himself the winner, at which point he gave up the no-Internt diet and hopped online, paving the way for the daughter to reveal herself as the true winner. Don't you just love these TV shows? They're so like life.

  8. Oh anytime Sally!

    And Jen - WHERE CAN I BUY A TEE?!

  9. Oh, I wish you'd come here and turn my wireless access off! Sometimes it's hard being the responsible one.

    I think it's a great idea. Fred is only 7 and already social networking is an issue in our house (via a very manipulative online game called Moshi Monsters). We started a blog for her to give her an online space and contact without the pressure and addictive nature of what Martin calls synchronous time (like chat, which facebook sort of is considering how frequently everyone updates). I actually kicked myself off facebook because I was on there so much.

  10. Hi Robyn, I haven't seen that TV series. We tend to watch a lot of Simpsons DVDs here and not much else. One of the tricky things about having kids spread apart in age is finding something that everyone likes. My eldest is 17 and my youngest is only 7 - so The Simpsons is about the only show we can all watch together.

    Penni, I constantly sway between thinking: "Well, it's just what kids do these days" to "What is going to happen to their precious imaginations? I have to do SOMETHING!" But I also know I need to lead by example. I've noticed since I got onto facebook and into blog-hopping I read far fewer books. One of my aims in monitoring my computer use is to get back into more reading again.

  11. We do one or two screen-free days a week, but then our kids are smaller. Cluedo's a big hit with the seven year old! and we manage our TV screen by hiding it in a cupboard so to get at it, you have to open the cupboard, and the hinge is wonky so you have to prop the door open with a big box... when the cupboard is shut, no one thinks much to open it. Also, absolutely no screens in bedrooms. So hard to manage otherwise.
    There's a recent book called Parlour Games for Modern Families. We're daggy enough to find it hilarious - it's full of ideas needing nothing more than pencil and paper.

  12. Hi Alison. That's a good idea to hide the TV. Ours doesn't even work on TV, but we still watch plenty of DVDs. At least we avoid the ads, I suppose. It's true, it gets harder as they get older. Definitely harder. But I do think it's important to at least get that groundwork in to show your kids that there ARE other options to screen-filled spare time.