Dr. Wendy Walsh: Recently, I spent the weekend with friends who have a beautiful home full of amenities -- except for one crucial thing: no cell-phone reception for my BlackBerry to pick up static from the world.
Since I am "over 40," I have experience with such foreign territory, so I barely noticed the silence and wondered at the crazy series of beeps that my device erupted into when I finally drove back into cellular range. I also wondered how my 11-year-old would have fared under such conditions.
It seems that kids today are downright addicted to text, the Internet, cell phones and social networking, and there's a new study to back that up. Per the study, University of Maryland researchers found that most college students are not just unwilling, but functionally unable to be without their electronic links to the world. The students described their withdrawal symptoms not unlike how a drug addict would, using terms such as "frantically craving," "very anxious," "extremely antsy," "miserable," "jittery" and "crazy."
If you worry that your adolescent or teen might be addicted to social media, now is the time to do some family weaning so they can learn self-control and use tech stuff more responsibly. In my house, I have four hard-and-fast rules:
1) No social media until all homework and long-term projects have been completed. (Trust me: This is a huge incentive for kids to get their academic work done.)
2) No social media during family dinnertime. Period. I don't care if the most pressing show is airing on TV or if Justin Bieber is debuting his new video on YouTube; if it happens on a screen at 6 PM, it doesn't happen in my house.
3) All media "powers down" one hour before bedtime. That gives the brain a chance to disengage and relax before sleep. By the way, this is a great time to encourage that archaic habit called "reading."
My kids also have one hard-and-fast rule that they have made me adhere to: When they are in the car, I'm not allowed to text, e-mail or talk on the phone -- Bluetooth or no. My job is to focus on the road and referee their fights. And believe me, that's more than enough brain stimulation for any one human being.