Have you ever been playing Chutes and Ladders with a five-year-old, getting every best spin, ignoring the worry in their eyes as you savor the certainty of a massive win, when suddenly you land on the longest Chute…the one that takes you from nearly the last spot to nearly the first spot, and though sliding is always a fun motion, you are suddenly so far behind that kindergartener there is little chance to win?

I’ve sort been playing a life-size game of Chutes and Ladders these last two weeks and hit that longest Chute…I got the flu.  Just as the New Year began with great hopes of cleaned closets and organized bills and, oh yes, blogs written.

The flu…. bah!

But while we’re talking board games, the second incredibly easy way to keep our families strong in the cyber world is to play board games.

I know, this is CyberStrong…why am I getting all 1950’s on you with family dinners and board games?  Well, because the solutions to the abundance of time we spend in front of screens, to the addictive algorithms built into games and social media by the same not-so-nice sort of guys that gave us addiction to cigarettes, and the over-abundance of fear and terror used to keep our poor brains typing, swiping and touching our phones 2600 times a day…. those solutions can be complicated and complex.

We’ll get there, but let’s start with the easy stuff…the stuff we’ve always known…like getting our families as strong as they can be, so we own the cyber world…so it does not own us.

Back to board games…the amount of time and money teens spend cyber-gaming and on social media is one of the top causes of conflict between parents and their teens.

There are lots of answers, but the American Pediatric Association, says…family dinners and board games are the simplest fixes.

Why board games?  Because the amount of dopamine one gets from pounding a joystick into thousands of little dings, flashes, and hits…and from getting a “like” or a quick Snapchat, is nothing compared to the amount of dopamine one gets from a triple word in Scrabble, the fees collected from Monopoly’s Park Place with a hotel on it, saying an unconvincing “Sorry” as you put your opponent’s piece back, telling your sister to “Draw Four” in UNO, or watching your parent slide from a near win to a start-over in Chutes and Ladders.

There is an odd amount of research on the incredible benefits of playing board games together as a family.  It’s like the kale of family activities. The exact cyber-consequences of lessened social, cognitive and emotional skills are increased when playing those board games sitting patiently in our hall closets.

The worst part of this flu was that for ten full days I mostly just lay in bed, staring at the ceiling.  A slow cascade of tears fell from the corners of my eyes as hours and opportunity slipped away.  As I recovered I realized this is how I feel after I’ve have handed over most of my free hours to head- lines that try and terrify me, posts that make me feel inferior to all those people who are clearly happier than myself, and to non-stop browsing…hours of these…that is what the flu feels like…only with a lot more nose blowing.

As soon as I’m all better I’m dusting off Apple to Apples and Clue and Battleship and Yahtzee and…

Elizabeth Clark

About the Author

Elizabeth Clark has been a mental health therapist for teens and families for thirty years.  She is a presenter for CyberStrong, a collaborative community effort, funded by the Western Colorado Community Foundation, to raise awareness and give skills to parents and educators about the influence of technology on our children, families and community.