When Wasting Time Hurts

How many of us, as adults are guilty of wasting time on screens? I’m sure everyone should be raising their hands. This week Screenagers tackles this issue with teens and tweens in the article below:

I am impressed by the number of tweens and teens who tell me they feel bad about spending a lot of time on screens. These young people say things like “I hate that I wasted the day away.” I then ask if they ever talk about this feeling at home. Generally, they say “no” because they don’t want their parents to say something like “yeah, see I told you so,” or “well, you should have known and just gone outside.”

It is summer now, and plenty of youth are spending many hours on screens. Finding ways to help them identify the feelings of “time wasted” can then help them to learn how to resist the urge to be on screens. Even if your child will not openly say they feel like they are wasting time, now is a great time to have a conversation because it will surely come up again during the school year when they are trying to finish their homework but the urge to check social media or watch a Youtube video keeps them from reaching their goal of finishing their work. Suddenly homework is not done and it is 10 PM, or later, much later.

Here are four ways you can share your strategies not to waste time to help them foster their own

  1. Talk about times you choose to indulge in screen time for entertainment. Maybe it’s when you finish a big work project, or it is your one night a week when you watch extra TV. Your kids might be surprised that you have thought this through. Modeling this idea is essential.
  2. Talk about how you find that it is so easy for you to avoid doing something challenging and to do something that feels like “wasted time” to you such as watching way too many movie trailers (i.e. me). The challenging task could be something like calling a friend you need to resolve a conflict with, or calling your tax accountant, or calling HBO yet again to cancel your online subscription, and they keep saying they will have someone call you, but they never do.
  3. Talk about the idea of a “Precommitment strategy,” a term coined by a Nobel-prize winning economist named Thomas Schelling. His concept was to organize things in a way that would ensure success by setting up systems that would make it difficult for you to back out later, and thereby fail at your goal. If you know you waste precious sleep time by bringing your screen into your room at night, the precommitment strategy would be to set a rule for yourself to not to bring the screen into your room so that you will not even have to deal with the dilemma of going on your screen and then to tell yourself to stop.  
  4. How do you forgive yourself when you end up feeling like you “wasted time?” This act is important to identify because when we beat ourselves up for doing what we had set out not do, we often then react by continuing to do the activity that made us waste time. For example, “wasting time” watching yet another Black Mirror episode might make you upset that the bills did not get paid. Then, as a way to soothe yourself from the stress and self-deprecation this brought on, you go right back to watching more episodes. Instead, if you you can stand back a moment, breath, and use your self-compassion and resilience tools to say something like “I needed to watch all those for a reason,” or “I am not sure what it was, but I am going to let this pass and not get anxious over it,” or “I will begin again,” or “I will try tomorrow.” Whatever you say to yourself, share with your kids.

If you have a loved one struggling with appropriate screen usage, please contact Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss the best treatment options available.

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