Teens aren’t the only ones immersed in technology at home. Parents are guilty of it, too. Whether you’re checking your work email from your phone or putting in extra hours on a project while at home, these actions may cause your child to feel neglected, sad or frustrated, according to Harvard Clinical and Consulting Psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of the book, “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.”
How can you disconnect from technology and reconnect with your kids?
Here are four tips to stay plugged in to your family:
1. Set a time for technology usage. Allow your kids to text or talk on their cell phones only during certain hours of the day, and abide by the same rules yourself. This helps prevent distractions during quality time with your children. It also allows you to be truly present when eating dinner with your family or while reading a book to younger children at bedtime.
2. Designate “technology-free” zones. Designate common areas, such as the living room or dining room, as “technology-free” zones. If you have younger children, ask them to craft and decorate a sign to hang in those areas as a reminder. To stay committed, you could keep a piggy bank in the kitchen, into which you (or older kids) would feed a quarter to each time the rule is broken.
3. Silence the interruptions. The age-old adage is true: Out of sight, out of mind. After “technology time” is over, put all cell phones on “silent” and place them in one area, such as a home office. This helps curtail the urge to check your phone to see who called or texted.
4. Plan weekly family activities. Sometimes we turn to technology out of boredom. Replace the time spent watching a YouTube video or checking a Facebook feed with regular, pre-planned activities with your kids. It could be as simple as a game of hide-and-seek outdoors, doing arts and crafts inside the home, or having a family picnic in the backyard. It could even be an ongoing project that you tackle a little bit of each day, such as building a playhouse or a reading corner.
Although you may find it difficult, at first, to scale back on technology usage, over time, some parents said it felt “freeing.” Years from now, you won’t remember that email you sent or that project you completed a day early, but you will remember the time you spent with your child.