Everyplace you look these days, you’ll find some type of technology. One kid is glued to their smartphone. Another is staring at a tablet. Even you and your partner are either tied to your computers or constantly checking your mobile email. It’s a high-tech world, and it’s invaded your family time.
Kids and adults depend on technology for school and work, so erasing it from daily life is a pipedream. That doesn’t mean you toss up your hands and give up on spending time with your loved ones, though. It does mean you’ll have to get a little creative to do it.
If you’re looking to recapture those close family bonds, give these six tactics a try. You’ll see it’s still possible to foster family closeness in a digital world.
1. Consider a Phone for Your Kid
If the goal is to limit tech time, why would you give your kid a phone? It certainly seems like that would undermine your goal. The truth is, giving your kids the ability to connect with you digitally can help keep them close. No matter where they are, they’re only a call or text away. Still, you don’t want them on the internet or social media for hours.
That’s why you should consider a kids phone that blocks social media. Your child might really want Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok, but those platforms can be a huge time sucker. Every minute devoted to posting updates, cropping photos, or making videos is a minute less they spend with your family. Instead, get a phone that is specifically designed to help your child communicate with you without internet distractions.
2. Have a Phone Bucket
Speaking of those phones — it’s worth it to find a way to get them out of everyone’s hands simultaneously. If you’ve ever asked your family to simply set their phones down, you know that isn’t the answer. It may last for a few minutes, but then someone gets a text or a news alert. When one person picks up their phone, the rest fall like dominoes. Suddenly, you’re back to square one.
Take this idea one step further with a phone bucket. Literally, have everyone put their phones in a container that stays out of reach for a certain span of time. Turn off the ringers or set them to vibrate. The goal is to eliminate — or at least minimize — interruptions. You’ll be amazed at how great conversation can be without all those pings and buzzes.
3. Schedule Family Dinners
It’s a busy world these days, so having dinner together every night may be tough. If your kids are older, they might have a part-time job or play a sport. On the nights when everyone is home, though, take advantage of the time. Bring everyone together for a tech-free meal.
Set the expectation by telling everyone dinner is at the table. No TV, no phones, no grabbing a plate and disappearing to their bedroom. Talk about your day and what happened at school or work. Have a few conversation starters ready in case this chit-chat starts to slow down. Before you know it, family dinners could be the highlight of everyone’s week.
4. Roll the Dice
Worried you’ll make your family cranky by limiting their tech time? You won’t if you find good replacements for their digital entertainments. Grab some dice and have a marathon board game night. Pick up some new games and pull out the old ones for what could be an evening of epic fun.
How long has it been since you tested your memory with Trivial Pursuit? Be a detective and see how good your murder mystery skills are with a few rounds of Clue. Bored with board games already? Go the silly route and see how creative you can be with charades. The chances of laughter are high, and your family might tell the story of your elephant impression for years!
5. Plan Tech-Free Trips
Think for a second about what car trips look like these days. Are your kiddos silent in the backseat with earbuds in and a device in their hands? Don’t worry — the days of car games and conversation haven’t disappeared. You simply need to plan a tech-free trip.
Consider starting slow with an afternoon picnic. No phones or devices are allowed during the car ride, lunch, or post-picnic game of frisbee. Work your way up to digital-less weekends away. Concentrate on outdoor activities that make it harder to sneak in tech time. Go hiking or camping. You could even search for a vacation spot that doesn’t offer Wi-Fi and let the family bonding begin.
6. Set a Good Example
In conversations about the negative impacts of technology, it’s easy to focus on teens. The truth is, however, that most of them mimic what they see adults do. Keep that in mind as much as you can. It’s particularly important to remember when you want to fuss about their time in the digital realm.
Before you can change their behavior, you may need to consider altering yours. Take a hard look at how much time you spend on the computer or staring at your phone at night. Are you too tied to technology when you should focus more on your family? If so, double down on your efforts to walk away from your device during the evening hours.
There’s no question that it’s a digital world these days, but you don’t have to live there all the time. The years you have with your kids at home go by quickly. Concentrate on making as many “in real life” memories as you can. Follow these six strategies to maximize your time together. Your family’s interest in technology could fade and their desire to spend more time together may grow.