Technology is everywhere. No matter where we go, we're surrounded by cell phones, computers, video games, TVs and DVD players. While technology is wonderful for work and play, people tend to become isolated from their loved ones as they become increasingly transfixed on their devices. Families can easily struggle to get everyone unplugged for some necessary quality time without interruptions by beeps, rings and pings. These tips make it easier to pull the plug and reconnect with the people who matter most.
It can seem hard, even impossible, to think about completely disconnecting. As long as everyone understands that an imposed non-tech time will end sooner or later, and that the time is meant for mutual enjoyment, families should have a good time. Some families have an easier time by setting a goal for how long everyone should stay disconnected. That means everyone will be present and there won't be any social media or texting. Some families might choose this for dinner time, Sunday brunch, working in the yard, an evening check-in to discuss the day, a day at the beach, even a shopping trip.
Some families designate a space just inside the door to leave cell phones. Parents and kids leave the phones in a basket, on a desk or even at a charging station. Others like to set a limit on computer time and time spent playing video games. It is so easy to get caught up in playing one more round or looking at one more website and not even realize just how much time is stolen. Parents can set rules and enforce them with a timer, helping children develop self-discipline.
One step many families take is to limit the number of televisions in the house. So often, what's on the screen distracts us from who or what is in the room. If the main TV is somewhere other than the family room, all the better. The same guidelines apply to DVD players in the car. Yes, a long car drive with small kids can be an incubator for all sorts of complaints, and a movie for the back-seaters can prevent trouble. But family members can learn to converse and observe their surroundings if they are not always watching a screen.
As much as parents might want their kids to unplug, they should think about what kind of role models they are. If a parent brings a cell phone to dinner because they want to check on something at work, it is going to be impossible to explain why kids shouldn't text while eating.
Having a plan in place for un-plugged time will offset any feelings of loss at disconnecting. So, families that decide to unplug can plan all sorts of activities. Parents might have the kids invite their friends to dinner so that everyone works on conversational skills and parents can connect with the people their kids spend so much time with. Other ways to connect: take up a hobby together; help the kids with homework; share meals; take walks or take the dog out together; find volunteer activities; set aside time for planning weekend activities and vacations; read; go on a picnic or explore the region where you live; set up a family game night. A bit of thought will help families disconnect tech so they can connect with one another.