It’s Friday night and you’ve taken your family out for a special sit-down dinner. You look around the crowded restaurant (or even at your own table) and notice the majority of heads are bent over the faint blue electronic glow from a myriad of digital devices. And it isn’t just the parents; children too are consumed with these technologic devices.
Technology has, without a doubt, boomed over the past several decades. In fact, according to Internet World Stats, Internet users around the globe have risen from .4% in 1995 to 46.4% by the end of 2015.
Technology is used everywhere—for business, in schools, and in homes as entertainment and social connections. Toddlers now understand how to operate smartphones. Elementary, middle school, and high school students are using personal computing devices for their education, then coming home and using them for homework and entertainment in the evening. Parents use constant Internet connection as a means of doing business and keeping up with clients. Finally, at the end of the day, devices are sometimes set aside so a family can sit down in front of the giant screen in their living rooms for a movie.
Technology is not all bad. In fact, many of us couldn’t make our livelihoods without it. Medical technologic advances are increasing lifespans and improving quality of lives. In an ever-changing world, families stay connected through instantaneous mobile sharing from all corners of the earth. However, this dramatic rise in digital and media consumption has some experts speculating it could be the root cause for a plethora of social, behavioral, and health and wellbeing woes.
The constant connection with smartphones, smart devices, personal computers, gaming consoles, and televisions may also be taking a toll on your quality family time. If this is you, here are a few important steps to take that will help manage screen time in your home and streamline its use in the most efficient way.
Know how much is “too much.” There is no magic formula that tells us what is too much technology. It varies from one home to another, some of us relying on it more than others. For your house, it’s important to know your limits.
Age-appropriateness. For example, Internet usage might be okay for your high school student to complete their homework while word computing programs will help your middle school student complete assignments. Your smart device might be off-limits for your drooling, barely walking toddler.
Which devices are allowed. Some technology might be essential, like a family computer for doing business or homework. But not all types are needed, so decide which are right for you, taking into consideration smart devices, phones, laptops, TVs, and gaming consoles.
Limit time. The bygone era of Saturday morning cartoons have leaked into every other day of the week in many households. Setting up a schedule of how much technology you allow and when it is okay to consume it keeps everyone accountable.
Prioritize. Determine what comes first before screen time. Maybe your kids have chores or home work. Perhaps you yourself have bills, laundry, or dishes. Maybe you just need to have some family time before members venture off to consume technology on their own. Perhaps it’s outdoor time or crafts or activities before TV or video games.
Set an example. If you want to effectively manage your family’s technology use, you have to be a good role model yourself. There’s nothing worse than making your kids stop playing video games and go outside when you yourself are Netflix binging.
Encourage other activities. Little ones turn to technology due to boredom. When the kids are begging for TV, suggest an alternative like going to the park or making a trip to the zoo.
Remove the TV. Having a big flat screen right in the middle of the living space only encourages its use. Maybe you only have TV in your bedroom where you watch it as a family. Or perhaps you find it’s best to remove it from the home altogether.
Steer kids toward engaging media. Instead of sitting the kids in front of TV shows or movies that encourage their minds to simply “zone out,” steer them toward more thought-provoking options like recorded storytelling, games that inspire problem solving skills, and educational programs.
Encourage hobbies. When people are engaging in their interests and hobbies, they are far less likely to turn to technology as a means of entertainment. Encourage hobbies for everyone, yourself included, as a way to spend precious. This not only helps create individuality, it also hones critical skills.
Ready to start managing your family’s screen time? Start with these tips, then tweak them to find solutions that work in your home and with your family. We think you’ll really appreciate the result: more quality family time.