MS. EMILY BERMAN
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." This week our theme is Letting Go. And for our next story, I need to start with a confession. My name is Emily Berman and I am generally not more than three feet away from my phone at any given time, in the shower, while I'm sleeping, while I'm running. I am almost always email, Twitter and internet accessible. And even at 10 years old, Erik Cekan understands my tech obsession.
MR. ERIK CEKAN
It was kind of in my routine. I'd wake up, I went on Wizard 101, I had breakfast and then I went to school and I came back. I was on the computer. I did my homework. I was on the computer.
So it sounds like it would fill up almost every minute of free time you had.
Yeah, pretty much.
But it doesn't anymore.
MS. JINDRA CEKAN
So we are going up the stairs. This is where I've hidden the technology.
Jindra Cekan is a single mother to Erik and his brother, Kaja. And we're in her row house on Capitol Hill.
So my children don't know about this place, so…
She crouches down and reaches into the back corner of her closet.
Oh, yeah, iPad, I have another iPad. I took out the Wii, here's the iPod.
Kaja, who's 12, tells me he knows exactly where the gadgets are, back of the closet is like the most obvious mom hiding spot in the world, but he and Erik, they're not going in there. This time, they said, their mother was dead serious.
This began when I walked in and I said, please bring in two bags of food for your lunch.
She had just made an evening run to Safeway to get sandwich ingredients.
Kaja said, I'm going to do that, sitting on his iPad. And my son Erik said, yeah, yeah, Mom, you know, in a few minutes. I can't right now. I'm playing. I said, oh, no.
This wasn't the first time a screen had taken priority over helping their mom.
I said you are bringing the groceries in. And as soon as they brought them in, I said, and you've lost all your technology until I tell you it's back. They had no idea what was going to hit them.
No iPads, no computer, no television, no Wii. These were the pillars of their young adulthood. The first week, Jindra says, they were slamming doors and storming around the house.
It was really like an addiction, you know. You could watch the addiction releasing its hold a bit.
To help her sons along in their recovery, Jindra devised a star chart to gauge when they're being helpful and kind.
I went around the house on Saturday and I cleaned the bathrooms and my brother vacuumed.
That got them two stars a piece, but it doesn't take much to get a star taken away.
They've gotten to look at how unhelpful they are because when they lose stars, like, why am I losing a star? I'm like, you just hit your brother for the sixth time.
They need 50 stars to get their technology back for one hour a day. Two months into their star counting, Erik has 33 and Kaja has 44.
MR. MARK SWEENEY
I proposed this intervention to a lot of different families and most of the time families avoid using this as an intervention until it's their last resort.
Mark Sweeney is their family therapist.
The Xbox can be a great babysitter. The Internet can engage a kid and kind of make their job as a parent a little bit easier.
Less technology means less free time for parents. And kids, he says, will exploit that.
The kids for many, many days will be in doubt whether you as a parent will be able to hold on. They will test. For those families that hold on for weeks and then months, wow, you can start to see other parts of the family improve, communication, problem solving. It's remarkable.
In the past couple of months, Kaja has been taking apart old computers in his bedroom.
I’m just trying to take it apart.
Erik sits on the floor surrounded by Legos.
I'm trying to build a bank.
And when he's not there you can also find him running around outside.
Now I've kind of realized that there's a lot of other fun things to do. Going to the park kind of now feels nicer than staying inside and sitting in front of the computer for an hour.
We'll play cards, we'll play Clue.
Jindra is an active Buddhist and says letting go of technology is a way to practice mindfulness in their home.
They are more respectful more often. They are kinder more often. They are more helpful more often. Parents just shouldn't be afraid to do this. Children will be mad at you, but ultimately it's teaching them so much about being here.
Kaja, on the other hand, finds this new lifestyle…
A little bit more boring.
And with just a few more stars to earn, he's counting down the minutes until he and his iPad are reunited for one blissful hour a day.
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