These days, invariably every family struggles with how to manage technology so that it doesn’t get TOO out of balance. I know that my family does! There are not any easy answers. But we all must make a mindful effort to manage our technology use in a healthy way. Since we are all in this together, I’d love to hear from you about the strategies that you and your family use to manage technology. Many folks can benefit from your struggles and ideas, so please share them. I look forward to hearing your tech tips!
WEAR A REGULAR WATCH
Lots of people these days use their phones to check the time. Alternatively, many people now have wearable tech such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch. Both of these options create the risk of tugging on our attention. Whenever we pull out our cells to check the time, invariably we find other things to do – check our texts, the news, email, etc. With wearables, those often convince us to enable push notifications and alerts, which can distract us from our work, friends, and the present moment. So, it is a good idea to invest in a standard watch that shows the time and date. You probably have an old one somewhere – dust it off & give it a try!
NO SCREENS DURING MEALS
What should you do about screens at meal times? I highly recommend that all devices be turned off and put away. The goal should be no screens during meals. Research shows that even the presence of cell phones diminishes the quality of social interactions. So, phones and other devices should not even be on the table. In a way, treat meal times as sacred spaces. When we are at meals, we need to honor that time with our family and friends. It is time to disconnect from tech in order to honor and build relationships. Unplugging from tech also gives us a chance to savor the food that we are eating instead of eating mindlessly. Mindful eating, which includes, savoring, has many benefits. However, we need to unplug in order to reap these benefits.
Relationships Are Key
We want to carve out times to build our social connections with others. This is because relationships are key to our happiness. We are social creatures by nature. Historically, all of our interactions took place face-to-face. Although kids and teens might argue that having cell phones in hand at all the times “is just the way it is now,” that doesn’t mean it is healthy. There are many things that are “normal” now that aren’t necessarily healthy. For example, the “normal” (meaning typical, in this sense) American diet is far from healthy. We have an obesity epidemic in America. About 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese.
What NOT to Do
Just take a look at this Facebook video from a few years ago. This teen (or young adult) is totally disconnecting from her aunt or neighbor. So, perhaps she finds it more engaging to check out Facebook rather than listening to her aunt droning on. Well, tough it out, I say! How do you think the aunt feels if others disengage to be on their cells? I wonder how this teen girl would feel if she was telling everyone about her day, and they all got out their phones and shut her out.
It’s critical that we honor meal times, especially with our families by having no screens during meals. This means whether at home or eating out. Make it habit, and you and your family will all reap the many benefits. Parents – be sure to practice this habit yourselves! So, when you have a date night, phones should be silenced and put out of sight. Time to connect with your partner!
When you go to the gym, on a run, or exercise, most of us love to listen to music. These days, most folks use their smart phones as their music player. However, as you might know, your workouts can suffer when you have your phone. The temptation to text or use social media is virtually impossible to resist. When a text comes in, we just can’t ignore them. So, my recommendation is out of sight of mind here. Get a dedicated music player, such as an iPod Nano or perhaps an old smart phone that no longer has connectivity. When you go for a workout, honor that time and keep your attention on the workout rather than your phone.
NO SCREENS IN THE BATHROOM
There’s a time and place for everything. When it comes answering the call of nature, my recommendation is no screens in the bathroom. Period. I’ll do a Ghostbusters callback here – don’t cross the streams! Er, that’s kind of a bad play on words in this context! Well, just be sure to save your calling, texting, and gaming for outside of the bathroom. Also, this rule should apply to YOU and your kids.