With resolutions and goals for 2020 in mind, we know that a lot parents are thinking about technology and screen time. Wrangling screen time is a huge concern for many of you (and us), as well as the members of our Out Tech Your Kids Facebook Group. Let’s just it’s a question we get asked about. A lot.
Getting rid of technology in your home isn’t necessarily an all or nothing situation, so we’re sharing 4 different approaches to a tech detox that might work for your family. Whether you’re looking for more connection with your kids and partner, or just want to find more time in your life for hobbies (remember those), we hope these suggestions work for you.
Some considerations before you get started
– If you’re planning on limiting technology, it’s important that your kids (and you!) have other things to do. We suggest upping the craft supplies, books, puzzles, and games (at least when you start), so you’re able to point people to alternatives.
– In our experience, less tech time means more messes. You’ll probably discover that your kids are going to have more time on their hands to be more creative, and at least in our house, that means more messes.
– There might also be more fighting. A home with lots of tech time often times means time where people are alone. Being off technology often forces people to be together, which is awesome and sometimes, very annoying. Be prepared for there to be a little more (or in some cases) a lot more bickering.
– There’s nothing wrong with instituting goals and rewards. When I did a tech detox with my kids a few years ago, they earned money. I’m not sure I’d necessarily do that again, but if they need some extra motivation, it’s worth upping the ante, yourself included.
– It’s a little hard to completely eliminate technology in our lives. It’s 2020, after all. So before you start this adventure, we suggest deciding what is causing the most issues. Is it okay if your family watches a movie together? Or your kids play video games together? And if you’ve got tweens and teens who use technology to communicate with each other, consider how it might affect them to not be able to do that. The socialization is important for them developmentally, so while they don’t need to be doing it at 1am, it’s not necessarily a negative thing for them to want to text their friends when they get home from school.
4 ways to try a tech detox with your family
Limit tech by time of day: When I did a tech detox a few years ago, I simply limited my phone use around my kids. That meant, when I was with my kids (basically before school and after school until their bedtime), I was off my phone completely. If people needed to reach me, I told them to actually call me, otherwise, I wouldn’t be available. This might be a little more difficult with kids, particularly tweens and teens who use their phone to connect with friends. But, you could say, afternoons only, or after dinner for two hours, you get the idea. Using time can help set clear boundaries.
Dumb down the devices: It’s often not possible for people to just lock up their phones for a month. I use mine for work, and to keep up with my husband and four kids. I do need to be available. However, I don’t need to be sitting on Facebook or Instagram in my free time. And I don’t need to know when someone RT’d me. There are several things you can do, from the basic level of turning off notifications, to more heavier duty changes like taking off all apps except the absolute essentials. You can also turn your phone to grayscale and hide apps on the 3rd or 4th pages (yes, it actually does work). Remember, you’re in charge of your gadget and not the other way around. If it’s too much of a siren call, get rid of the darn siren.
Create sacred spaces: We love the idea of creating sacred spaces in your home, courtesy of tech expert Dr. Mike Brooks (his book, above). His idea is to find spaces in your home that are either safe for tech or off limits. This means, no tech in the bedroom, kitchen, or dinner table. Or, maybe that means you can only use your phone when you’re sitting on the couch (or not sitting on the couch). There are a myriad ways to interpret this approach and make it work for your family.
Remove the temptation: Sometimes you just need to completely remove the temptation of your gadgets completely. Or you just need to place the temptations on a different gadget. This past year, I actually purchased a “work” phone, which houses all of my social media, game apps, and other entertaining things that are easily distracting. I did this because I work in social media, and so essentially, with it on my personal phone, it felt like I was working all the time. Now it’s on a completely different gadget, so it’s actually possible for me to be offline completely and unplug. I understand that it’s not a feasible option for many families, but if you or your kids have phones and tablets (or phones and computers), consider moving everything that’s distracting of their phone, and make the tablet or computer the work/fun gadget, which they only get on a limited basi