How (and Why) to Unplug Your Family

posted: April 27, 2018By:

The other day I went to get something to make for dinner for my family. I walked into a local store we like, sighed at the long line, found the end of the long line on the other side of the store, and started staring at my phone to pass the time. Is there a Mets lineup posted yet? Who are the Jets going to draft? Which entertainers and politicians are arguing on Twitter? This is really important stuff that I had to know at that moment. After what felt like 10 minutes standing and barely moving, I looked up and noticed the gentleman next to me doing the same thing. He was also 100% focused on his phone, and I’m sure also reading equally important information!

Then I realized it was one of my good friends. We stood there for 10 minutes, less than one foot away from each other and didn’t even notice each other. We laughed out loud but it also scared me when I thought about it later. We (me included!) are all so wrapped up in the information available on our devices, we don’t see (and enjoy) what is right in front of us. We should have spent that time catching up, sharing stories about our children, talking about work, etc.

I see families and friends out to dinner, sitting, waiting for a movie to start and/or driving in a car together and too many times each person (sometimes even the driver!) is more focused on their phone then the people around them. My family is often guilty of this as well. And sometimes when we do talk, we are focused on everything that’s happening in the world and everything we have to remember to do tomorrow, next week or next month. We miss out on the really important moments when we are together with loved ones because we are not present in the moment. As one of my favorite characters likes to say, “Live in the Now!” (Bonus points if you know who I am referring to). If we don’t have a good handle on what’s happening at the present moment, it doesn’t really matter what you have planned for tomorrow, next week or next month.

What can we do? Make rules for your family! Here are some rules that work (most of the time) for mine:

Have a no device at meals policy when you are all sitting together. We also like to (my 6 year old insists on it!) go around the table and discuss POSITIVE things that happened during the day. Of course we also discuss any negatives and how to resolve them, but we try to steer our conversations towards the great things happening in our lives each day.

Do not allow the children to use devices in the car unless the ride is more than an hour.

Make Saturday or Sunday morning a music only time. We listen to the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Weird Al, They Might Be Giants, Broadway shows and mixes of all of our favorite tunes. The children color, talk, play board games, build legos, etc. We (my wife and I- not the children!) drink coffee, eat breakfast together and enjoy each other in the moment. If it’s nice out we do this all outside and even take a walk around the block together!

Do not allow children to use devices at play dates. Break out the markers, glue and scissors, let them build forts with couch cushions or get them outside if it’s not freezing. Children can play outside if it’s a little cold and even if it’s a little wet! They will be ok.

At camp we place a high priority on personal interactions. Campers are intentionally placed in situations where they are forced to have these interactions with peers and adults. Our Shibley community is guided by our GREEN Values: Generosity, Respect, Empathy, Endurance and Nurture. We celebrate these values as we guide the positive social development of children and young adults. This development does not take place when children (and adults) are staring at devices all day.

What rules do you have in place for your family that work well? Please share them with us-