After dinner we find ourselves sitting in the living room; just the five of us. Formerly, we might have watched TV together. Maybe played a game. But instead I observe one teenager listening to music on her iPod while checking her Facebook account. My son watches a favorite TV show on his iPad. My other son plays a game on my iPhone, and my husband reads the news on his laptop. Go figure! Me? Well, I’m probably doing laundry, but that’s a whole different conversation. Technology now rules the roost, so to speak, and communication, well . . . it’s just not happening!
If this sounds familiar, take heart! There are ways to make technology work for the family, and not against it. As much as we may not like to admit it, iPads, iPods and iPhones are, well, fun! The question is how to make the fun of using them less isolating.
As a parent of three busy kids, it is tempting to neglect setting technology-use boundaries. I’m a tired mom! Admit it. Once sports, dinner and homework are complete, it is overwhelmingly tempting to ignore just how much time the kids spend in cyberspace. However, the responsible parent in me knows better, and the phrase, “all things in moderation” comes to mind. So, I set limits.
Another strategy for building healthier tech habits would be to join in the fun. Use the iPad to play Scrabble with one or two of your kids. Show interest in that new app that enthralls your ten year-old. Ask your teen to loan you one earbud and listen for awhile. Text your kids for fun! Ask how they are doing. Taking the time to connect via popular technology will be like adding quarters to your family’s emotional bank.
Then, unplug. Create “no technology” nights. In fact, unplug the TV, as well. At first, expect serious resistance, but hang in there! Recently, my youngest had a melt-down when we limited his video game playing time, but he got over it. Your kids will, too! Your teen might insist that she will lose friends if she doesn’t return texts immediately. Really? Yes, I have reminded my kids that I survived high school AND college without a phone or a computer, thank you! And I still had friends, go figure!
What to do with the extra time? As summer approaches, the evenings grow increasingly lighter, so take advantage of the great outdoors. Go on a bike ride. Take a walk. Build a campfire and roast marshmallows. Make s’mores. Look at the stars. Sing? Well, maybe not. But as we adults remember what it was like to play outside, our kids just might discover nature’s joys, as well. But hey, you can take the iPod along and the whole family can listen to tunes while you picnic.
Remember–maintaining that balance between technology and “real life” is key to a heathy family. Isn’t technology all about connecting? Families can make technology work for them, and not let it become isolating. Healthy boundaries can be set, and taking time off can be enriching. And show some interest. So, Scrabble anyone? iPad style, of course.