I am a parent of a preschooler, a 2nd grader and a preteen, I have begun to take note as to how much my 12 year old is on their device and in retrospect how much I am on my cell phone. I would like to unplug so that I can be a better parent. Please help!
First of all, we would like to commend you for realizing the need to unplug. Technology can be a wonderful thing, but having it around all the time can be detrimental. For children as well as adults, it can inhibit the way we interact socially, lead to a dependence on outside validation and even put a physical strain on your eyes and back. When you unplug for even a day the benefits are huge! A good place to start is to take a look at your own habits. One easy habit to break is reaching for your phone first thing in the morning. When you depend on your phone to get up, it is tempting to dive right in to social media, email or texts. This can be solved by purchasing a traditional alarm clock. Leave the phone in another room while you sleep. Take the time to welcome the day each morning and reflect each night without the interference of technology. Another suggestion; when you plan to stay off your phone place a sticky note on it stating something like, “Family Time.” That way, when you have the urge to pick it up, you’ll have a visual reminder of what you should be doing.
Unplugging has benefits for the entire family. It can strengthen relationship skills in your children, help them appreciate the outdoors, encourage empathy and verbal communication, and bring the family closer. Thinking back to a period of no cell phones and no tablets, families spent time doing things together; playing board games, taking walks or playing at the park. By unplugging, your children will gain a sense of self-satisfaction without the need to share every moment on social media. They learn to play on their own. The benefits for you will be just as rewarding. You will have time to observe your children and their interests, read that book you just haven’t found the time for and spend time with your significant other. Children and adults spend a large amount of their time in doors on their technology. By unplugging, you can become more physically active for the benefit of your health.
You may want to start out small. Try putting down your phone for an hour. Good times to start may be after school, when your spouse or partner comes home from work, or during a family dinner. Try increasing this over time, perhaps plan for a night of unplugging and then slowly lead up to a weekend.
So how do you start a routine of unplugging or going a day or weekend tech free? In order to make this a successful experience, establish the ground rules ahead of time. Create times or places where the technology must be put away. Some examples include the dinner table, an hour prior to bed, or other predetermined times of the day. Perhaps together you put all the devices in a locked box, draw or closet. If you feel you need to have a phone for the sake of emergencies, turn off all notifications and functions other than incoming or outgoing calls. If you have older children they might complain. That is okay! Plan fun dynamic activities that everyone will enjoy and hopefully not be able to help but joining the fun!
Things to do when unplugged
• Decorate a box together to keep your technology in when you are unplugged.
• Family Game Night; bring out those tried and true board games like Monopoly, LIFE, Scrabble, Candy Land, etc.
• Play a friendly game of family poker using cookies as chips.
• Cook a meal together where everyone has a part in it.
• Plan an excursion to a museum, a state park or the beach.
• Go on a nature scavenger hunt. Print out pictures of items for the family to find. Bring along a bag to collect items for an art project later.
• Set up a family obstacle course in your yard. Race against yourself to increase your individual times.
• Have a family book club. Pick out a book that everyone in your family would enjoy. Read it together and have a discussion over supper. Have younger children create art based on themes from the book.
Unplug and take the time to spend quality time for yourself and your family!