Mobile Devices are Digital Pacifiers

Not everyone is a fan of using dummies with babies or toddlers. My son recently turned two and a half years and my wife and I decided that it was time for us to confiscate the pacifier and throw away the collection.

We placed a gift bag inside our front door and hung it from the handle. Our son was provided the task of placing all dummies within the bag. We then asked him to look around the house and find any dummies that were hiding. With the bag containing all collected goods we advised him that during the night the Dummy Fairies and Elves would collect all the dummies and take them to the hospital for all the sick babies that needed them. In return he would be left with a new special toy.

We tried this with our daughter several years earlier and it proved to be a success. The program worked extremely well and was proving equally effective with our son. The reward and trade off of leaving the dummy behind was a prize of significance. Our son decided that he wanted a new toy puppy more than anything. It may seem like an odd request, however, all he wanted for Christmas was soap. Despite his odd preference, we decided that while he was asleep we would remove all the dummies from the bag hanging from our door and replace them with the new soft toy.  Our son awoke early the next morning and made a run for the door. We heard the foyer filled with cheer, joy and laughter. Since the event our son has not called or screamed for the dummy. I believe the concept works well because he was provided with something of meaning and of significance. To celebrate his new manhood we indulged in pancakes with maple syrup, fresh fruit and double cream for breakfast.

I was expecting our son to more difficult than our daughter had been several years earlier, however, the experience was equally as pleasant. I believe our parenting strategy can be applied to the use of mobile technology within the home. Mobile devices are digital pacifiers.

Many parents have probably yelled and demanded for their children to put their iPad or mobile device away. The confrontation often becomes a conflict. The experience can be likened to pulling a dummy from the mouth of a baby. If a pacifier is reefed from the mouth of a baby the young child is likely to scream and demand for it to be returned. In a similar fashion children are likely to express their anger if mobile technology is taken away.

To reduce tension and achieve a positive outcome alternatives to passivity must be stated. When requesting for technology to be switched off or put away, other interesting activities should be made available. Engaging in activities, ritual events and exercise will help provide alternatives to using digital pacifiers. Children can be encouraged to participate in household duties. Boardgames, videos and shopping are three alternatives. Often teenage boys are attracted to gaming because of the sensory risks that they are taking, however, bushing walk or taking an adventurous expedition can provide the challenge they seek. Engaging activities, ritual events and regular exercise will help provide an alternative to the use of digital pacifiers.


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