If you have a nagging feeling that technology is negatively influencing your children, you’re not alone. As you evaluate the effects of technology on your family, it’s important to start with yourself and your own habits. As parents, we have to model the behavior we expect from our children, even with our cell phones and computers.
To connect more often and more deeply, we can designate places to be technology free. Our kids need to know that relationships are more than “friending” on Facebook or sharing snippets on Twitter. Real relationships require real relationship skills, best taught at home. Here are four places you might designate as tech-free zones as you work to develop better family connections.
Tech-free tables. Even in restaurants, people are often using their devices to talk or play games instead of connecting with other members of their family. Make a rule that cell phones and other devices are turned off and put away during meals.
At home, turn off the television as well and designate a place on the counter where cell phones can be left until after dinner. Work to make your dinner time an occasion to connect with one another and discuss the day. Ask friends and colleagues to refrain from calling during dinnertime and don’t answer the phone if they do.
Downtime in the car. When you have your children in the car, use that time to talk to one another instead of letting each person retreat to his or her individual device. Try to restrict the use of DVDs to long trips. Let the time in the car be a chance to relax and think instead of escaping to a game or video.
When you get into the car, put your cell phone in the glove compartment so you aren’t tempted to answer it.
Screen-free bedrooms. Everyone sleeps better if they’re not looking at screens or playing stimulating games before bedtime. Some parents require all devices to be used in public parts of the home so they are more aware of what the children are doing and how long they are using their devices.
Some families ask that all cell phones charge on the counter overnight so they are not available for late night messaging.
No screen vacations. Vacations are designed to step away from the everyday. Family vacations are meant to include genuine interaction with one another, which can be difficult when some members of the family are spending hours playing games or using social media.
As difficult as it seems, leaving screens at home can enhance a family’s time together and provide a true break from the routine. One parent may need to bring a telephone for emergency use or to occasionally check in at work, but adults should live by the rules as well and spend as much of the vacation as possible screen free.
Choose to do what works best for you and your family. Identify your frustrations or places when technology seems to get out of hand and start there.