For most families today, screens are a large part of everyday life. According to the Pew Research Center's study conducted in April 2015, nearly two-thirds of today's Americans own a smartphone and/or tablet, and rely on these devices for just about everything - work, socializing, entertainment, and staying connected to the world around them.
We know what you're thinking: It's 2016. This is no surprise.
Here's the problem: this technology addiction is interfering with traditional family time. Face-to-face interaction is critical for the development of children's social skills, emotions, and intelligence. Not to mention, playtime is a important opportunity for parents to bond with their children.
Is your family in need of a digital detox? We promise you aren't alone. Recognizing it is the first step. Your second step: put down that iPad and let's bring back the meaning of playtime!
Although it is impossible to eliminate technology all together, small cut backs can benefit everyone and the overall family dynamics. Here are 5 tips for to help your family get started: step away from the screens, reconnect with each other, and actually enjoy spending quality time together!
1. No screens during meals.
And this includes when you are out to eat! Take the meal time as an opportunity to have a real and meaningful conversation with your family. Trust us, social media and email can wait.
2. Replace screen-time with hands-on family activities.
When you're tempted to give your children a device to keep them entertained, stop and remember this: the time that they spend in front of a screen will not be nearly as meaningful as the time they spend with you. Instead, replace these devices with physically active games or other non-digital activities like board games, cards, or arts and crafts. Read a book, go for a walk or bike ride, or bake a dessert together! These small moments add up. You'll be happy that you traded that screen in.
3. Set specific "unplugged" hours for everyone in the family.
Make it a rule to step away from your devices at specific hours in the day to spend time with your family. If you need to, inform your co-workers when you will be “unplugged" so that you can stick to it. Your family will appreciate your undivided attention - and you will welcome the break!
4. Work together towards a common goal.
Breaking a habit is hard and it certainly won't happen overnight. We'll be honest: decreasing your family's screen time will not be an easy task. But supporting each other throughout the "unplugged" sessions will help you make small strides! Set up goals or rewards for your family. If you each reach that goal, plan a family reward. It can be as simple as going out to eat and celebrate, taking a vacation/daycation, or buying something new. Reward yourselves for working together and making progress!
5. Be a good role model.
Parents and older siblings: you are the role models in your home! Set a good example when it comes to screen time. Encourage your family members to unplug, take a break, and reconnect with each other. Your commitment to limiting screen time shows that the health and well-being of your family is your utmost priority. That's something to be proud of!