38% of girls ages 8 to 12 told us they’re jealous of the way other girls look.
If you’re used to being connected to something most of the time, unplugging may be a big adjustment.
Circle T (true) or F (false) for these statements:
T F I spend hours talking to my friends online or texting every day.
T F If I get a new text message and can’t read or answer it right away, I feel anxious.
T F I’d rather play video games or go online than do any other activity.
T F Sometimes I’m so into my cell phone, iPod, video games, and computer that I neglect my homework.
If you circled more than two T’s, technology may be taking over your life. It’s hard to ignore the newest, shiniest cell phones, mp3 players, and video games—and it’s so tempting to spend hours on AIM when you can’t hang out with your friends! But if you also feel like you have to be plugged in 24/7, your gadgets may be adding as much pressure as pleasure to your life. If that’s true, it’s time to hit the Pause button and ask yourself who’s in charge here: you…or your tech?
“If I’m not logged on to chat rooms or IM every minute, I worry a lot about what people have to say and have a minor ‘heart attack’ (as my friends say). When I receive a new text, I dash to my phone, even if I’m in the middle of doing something. It gets crazy.” -Reema, age 13, N.J.
You want to be in the loop. Who doesn’t? If your friend Lisa e-mails everyone a survey, you don’t want to be the only one who hasn’t taken it. If Jenny texts you that her crush just sat next to her on the bus, you want to be the first to fire back some advice. Technology is a huge part of your social life, and unplugging for even a minute can make you feel like you’re missing out or not fitting in.
But along with all these gadgets comes the pressure to be available at every single moment—and that can leave you anxious and overwhelmed. Lisa’s survey may arrive when you’re working on a big school project, but if you don’t hit Reply right away, she may think you’re ignoring her. If you’re in the middle of talking with a guy friend of your own, you may not want to stop to answer Jenny’s texts…but can you ignore her without getting her mad? Your friends can reach you instantly whenever they want, so they think you should answer no matter what you’re doing—and so do you.
The trick is to take back your space, and that means you’ll have to speak up. Let your friends know that you still care about them, but want more time to do other things—and that even if you don’t always answer texts immediately, you’ll be there when they really need you.
“Some kids at my school literally go home, play video games, eat, race through their homework, play more video games, and go to sleep. I was getting addicted to texting and going online, so I made a list of other things I could do to get active. I go to it every time I want to plug in. There are much better ways to live your life than sitting around all day texting and goofing off on the computer.” -Haley, age 12, Ariz.
It’s so easy to let all these tech toys eat up your time. You don’t really mean to spend four hours playing with your Wii or surfing the ‘net. But before you know it, the afternoon is almost over…and you haven’t done any of the other things you wanted to do!
You only get so many hours in a day. Do you want to excel at sports? Design clothes? Make the honor roll? Then don’t let your tech habit take up all your time! When you know you’ll be home all afternoon, plan ahead. Invite over your soccer superstar friend to teach you to dribble. Set out your fashion sketchbook in the morning to remind yourself that you want to work on it when you get home from school. If you still can’t resist plugging in “just for a minute,” ask your mom or dad to remind you that you’ve got a date with your other interests. When your time is up, sign off, no matter what! Otherwise, you could be missing out on a lot more than just chatting…you could be missing out on being your best you.
“I’m not allowed on the computer during the week because I have a hard time getting off. Also, I can’t have my cell phone on while I’m doing my homework because I get distracted when my friends call or text me. It helps that my parents restrict my time.” -Krista, age 10, Calif.
No one’s saying you have to give up all your technology. Gadgets add a lot to life, and they’re here to stay. The sooner you take control of them—and not the other way around—the better. Start small if you need to: Give yourself an hour a day with no text messages, IMs, or video games, then work your way up. Or tackle one gadget at a time: The first week, reduce your Internet use; the second week, give your thumbs a break from texting. Do your parents limit your tech time? If not, ask for their help. It gives you perfect excuse when friends pressure you to text, chat, or play video games a little too much. You can honestly say, “Sorry, but I’m not allowed…”
If you’re used to being connected to something most of the time, unplugging may be a big adjustment. The gadget habit takes time to break, but you will get used to it. Remind yourself what less tech time means for you: less stress, more time for everything else you love, maybe even better grades…all in all, a calmer, better, happier you. Isn’t that worth it?
Originally printed in Discovery Girls magazine. Share this with your daughter.