Get creative with family time

Karl Teel

People are like water. No, I am not referring to the scientific percentage of water that makes up the human body, I am referring to the principle of physics — water takes the path of least resistance.

A lot of people these days speak of the younger generation’s fixation on screens, such as the phones they can’t put down, or the video game monitors that hypnotize them for hours on end. The brain seeks stimulation and pleasure, and of course much of that can be found on a screen. A message from a friend, a video showing something cool, a game challenge checking how quick and clever you are.

We know the brain is wired for reward. In fact, many of these screen addiction issues, like other addiction issues, are born of the brain’s rapid reward cravings. Think about it. You get a text-instant reward — someone is thinking of you, a question is answered, and opportunity arises. Video games are essentially a non-stop bombardment of the brain with rewards.

But not all of these screen issues are that shallow. Some are deeper. Imagine watching the big screen and seeing majestic nature shots of places you can’t get to. Once again, it’s a reward. And then there are items such as virtual reality headsets or skydiving simulators that offer the pleasure center reward without any of the risk.

Parents these days often complain about their children being addicted to the screen. In addition to the physical problems created by a lack of activity, there are also social issues and challenges. These include a lack of dialogue at the dinner table, lack of interest in other activities, and essentially being in a digital cocoon.

How do you counter that? You fight fire with fire. The screen is stimulating the brain, so you need to stimulate it even more. Take a vacation somewhere. Get the kids on board with the project first by offering some suggestions. “How about a trip to the beach?” “Let’s go to the mountains and see eagles and take a train through the valley.” “Check out some of these places and let me know your interests.” “Let’s visit places where cool things happened (such as Jamestown, Philadelphia, an old mining town, etc.).”

The bottom line is to fight stimulation that has negative effects (lazy screen time) with stimulation that has positive effects (maybe waterskiing on Deep Creek Lake). Let them take pictures and videos.

As an added benefit, some remote cool places don’t have signals, so you can use the phone for photos, but not for messaging.

My gut says the dinner table will be abuzz each night recapping cool events of the day. Need some ideas? Every page of Recreation News has some! Enjoy!

On our cover

The wild horses of Corolla are at home on the beach or among the scattered homes and dunes at the north end of the island. (Currituck Co. Tourism)

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