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I work from home and find that my daily default, for the first half of my day, is sitting in front of a computer screen.  I putz around answering emails, then get absorbed in a Facebook or LinkedIn post, and the surfing flurry goes on from there.  Many days, I am totally unproductive. Something about passively staring at a screen saps my energy, but I often seem unable to pull myself away.  As a writer and program developer, creativity is my currency, and time on the computer often leaves me feeling bankrupt.

One antidote to my Internet Disorder has been proving increasingly effective: getting out of the computer chair and simply doing something else.  While this may sound simplistic, it’s not easy for me.  Honestly, I am writing this blog more for myself than anyone else.  If I leave a written record online of my intention to “stop the Internet insanity,” I am more likely to follow through, if for no other reason than my deep sense of guilt.   And let me tell you, it is deep, a jagged chasm in my soul created from twelve years of Catholic school!
http://www.mtv.com/news/2274236/stephen-amell-twitter-break/
When I get out and do something completely different, I often return to the computer ready to use it for constructive purposes, like finishing my book, writing a blog, working on video scripts, and dozens of other positive pursuits.

If you are at all like me, take a few minutes now and write down a list of things, at least twenty, you need to do, or things you’ve been longing to do.  Here is my list that I am making up right now, so that it’s authentically in the moment.  I try to make up a list like this every day (some items carry over).

  1. Go to the Polish Market.
  2. Go to the café at the Detroit Institute of Arts .
  3. Take a 20-minute walk through the neighborhood.
  4. Run down and throw in a load of laundry.
  5. Iron the shirts in the laundry room that have been sitting there for three weeks.
  6. Do twenty push-ups.
  7. Make up and send invoices I have been putting off.
  8. Go to the drug store and buy toothpaste (which I have been out of for a week!).
  9. Make a list of workshop topics for 2016.
  10. Set dates for workshops for 2016.
  11. Go to the tile store to pick out bathroom tile.
  12. Call contractor about bathroom tear-out.
  13. Call Martin and ask his advice on hiring an assistant.
  14. Plan winter vacation now so that I can get better rates than my usual planning at the last minute.
  15. Drive to Tim Horton’s and get a latte.
  16. Take notebook into the yard and brainstorm on book project.
  17. Take five minutes to stretch using yoga postures.
  18. Write a thank-you note to friends who had me up to their summer home, and gave me REAL HUMAN INTERACTION.
  19. Spend ten minutes working in the yard (I HATE YARD WORK AND AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE).
  20. Spend ten minutes cleaning out my car, which is an absolute pit.

For the record, after number 18, I zoned out and went back on Facebook for a while until I realized, perhaps five minutes later, what I had done.  Take a few minutes now and make out your own list and follow it.  Comment on this blog and become part of a community of people who are all in this together, all trying to use the Internet to expand their potential instead of wasting it.  I cannot seem to do it by myself.  If you are having trouble in this area, don’t try to do it alone.  Tell a friend what you are up to and see if he or she will support you.  You may just need someone to check in with once or twice a week.  Make no mistake, for many of us spending too much unproductive time online is a serious problem that requires commitment, focus, and plenty of support.  Do not try to do it alone, but DO get your butt out of that chair, NOW!

Are Video Games Good for Your Child?

A new study found a correlation, not causation, between children with happy and balanced lives and playing video game for an hour or less per day. What I find irritating about this study is that this is common sense and yet someone paid lots of money to fund “scientists” to figure this out. Yes, for the most part, children who do not bury themselves in video games are leading more balanced and healthy lives. Rather than squatting in front of a screen, they are out at the ball field, going to camps, hanging out with friends, and having a life. These children are not following the sedentary trend that grips the Western world.

But video games are not creating their sense of well-being. Rather, playing for short periods is what one would expect to find in the life of a child who has other activities going on. So, if your child has social-skill deficits, suffers from hyperactivity, and has few outside interests that engage him or her, your child is more likely to be a problem video gamer, i.e., play an average of more than three hours a day. The games do not create the problem; your child’s brain does. But the gaming behavior can make underlying difficulties worse. Children with ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome are, for example at a much higher risk for become problem gamers, but the gaming does not create these neurobiologically-driven conditions!

If your child has a social skill deficit and spends four hours a day by himself, in front of a screen, then the problem will get worse. If your child struggles with impulsivity and waiting his or her turn, placating your child by parking him or her in front of a PlayStation will not help the situation. As any good parent knows, your child needs to learn how to get along with others. Your child also needs to be physically active, both to put him or her on a long-term positive health trajectory and to help him or her lead a balanced life. Your child also needs to learn to work hard, and to delay a small, short-term reward, for a longer-term, but much larger one. Excessive video gaming can get in the way of all these development steps.

Video games are great, in moderation. They can help with eye-hand coordination, visual-spatial acuity, and can even make learning fun. When a child plays video games in excess, however, behavioral problems are probably already present. Video games are the great escape for today’s troubled children, but they usually make their problems worse. The logic holds for smart phones too. Excess gaming is a sign that some deeper issue is present. So when your child starts to exhibit excess interest in gaming, it might be time to get professional help.

When parents call me, they are usually at the end of their rope, dealing with a teenager who is already a full-fledged addict. It is best to start modeling healthy tech behavior when your children are young. Consider tackling this issue as a family by following my top five technology tips.

Kevin’s Top Five Family Technology Tips
1. Have at least some tech-free time as a family. Don’t allow smart phones at the dinner table, for example.
2. In addition to tech-free time, have tech-free zones. Many families I work with choose to use the family room for this purpose. Cell phones, video game consoles, laptops, iPads, and computers are not allowed in there.
3. Set a maximum time allowed on video games and the computer. I recommend no more than two hours a day.
4. For each minute spent on the computer or video game, require a corresponding minute of exercise. This will allow you to combat the tendency for technology to create sedentary and obese children.
5. No TV’s, computers, or video game consoles in the bedroom.

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