Technology Detox: How to Reset your Family Technology UsageJun 17, 2023
Special Note: Please read this article knowing that we have all been there. Our technology usage, just like most everything in life, constantly ebbs and flows. Recognizing when screens are starting to take over, and negatively impact our life, is key to making a positive change! If you read the rest of the article and think: “eeeesh….this is our family” be gentle on yourself and know that most of us have been in that exact same place!
Is screen time and technology starting to take over your home?
If so, you are not alone! Information provided by the CDC has documented that the average child between the ages of 11 to 14 consumes approximately 9 hours of screentime per day (Article). This phenomenon is not restricted to kids. In a pre-pandemic Nielsen study, adults spent over 10 hours per day on screens (Article). Not surprisingly, this number has increased even more post-pandemic.
The problem with these numbers is that increased screen time is related to:
- Poorer sleep
- Higher levels of anxiety and depression
- Eye strain and headaches
- Addictive behaviors
- Decreased language development (in infants and young children)
- Reduced ability to read social cues
- Decreased attention
- Poorer emotional control
Well, what are some good screentime habits?
If you are reading this as a young family, wondering how best to set up technology and screen-time in your home, read this blog first! How to Keep Screentime Manageable
If, however, you are reading this, and already know that screens are a bit out-of-control in your house, then keep on reading!
What are the signs of too much technology?
In the world we live in, some technology is just fine! Both of our families enjoy watching movies, online shopping (well, maybe just Jordana and I), and playing videogames. Technology is also such a big part of our culture now, it's hard to function without it. However, it's important to look for signs that technology is starting to negatively impact your family. You may notice that screens are taking over too much, if you notice any of the following in your children (or yourself!):
- Their sleep is negatively impacted. They have a difficult time falling asleep. They may be relying on something like a melatonin supplement to fall asleep. They wake frequently throughout the night. They may not seem rested or are excessively cranky in the morning.
- They are snippier than usual. When you attempt to ask them a question while they are on a device, they back-talk more than usual. (This is also a great self-reflection point as well. If you are on your phone, and your child asks you a question, how do you feel? Irritated?).
- Your children are fighting with each other more than usual.
- You find each member of the family drifting off to do their own thing during mealtimes, and you rarely eat meals together.
- You rarely talk during car rides because everyone is on a screen
- Your child turns down opportunities for play, going outside, or interacting with peers, to be on a device.
- It’s hard to convince your child to turn off screens.
- They are spending less than 30 minutes per day engaged in physical activity.
- They do not read for fun
- They do not spend 30 minutes per day outside.
- They seem more irritable, anxious, or sad than usual.
If any of the above ring true for your family, it may be time for a “Screen Time Reset.” Keep reading for tips on how to reset your screen time usage. You do not have to pursue each of these tips – start with what you think will be the most successful based on your family dynamics.
7 Ways to "Reset"
1. Approach it as a family change, not as an individual change
You will see the most effective change if you approach screentime changes as a family. More than likely, everyone in the family could benefit from cutting back on screens. Go into as a team together, versus pointing fingers at one or two members of your family. This is what that may sound like:
“I’ve noticed that we have all been on our devices more than usual, me just as much as any of us! But, I also know that too much technology time is not good for us, and, I miss you! Let’s brainstorm some ways we can all cut back together.”
2. In the initial stages of detoxing screens, replace missing screen time with something else
Although we are big believers in the power of boredom, your kids may initially need some ideas of what to do instead of technology. Playing video games, or perusing YouTube or social media creates surges of dopamine in the brain, which is a feel-good neuromodulator. When you suddenly do not have those same boosts as often, it can truly feel like you are going through withdrawals. You may need to create opportunities for what they can do instead of technology: ride their bikes, go to the park, play in the sprinklers, play board games together, start a new chapter book, learn how to do yarn crafts, learn some magic tricks, or finally learn the steps to the Rubik’s cube.
3. Cut out screens during mealtimes and car rides
If you aren’t sure where to start, then first cut out devices during mealtimes and car rides! These times are limited, and regular, and are usually easier to control. These are also two times where you can replace technology with family bonding time. Instead of looking down at a screen, talk about your day. Talk about what countries you want to travel to and why. Ask your 6-year-old what power they would have if they were a dragon, and why.
Research has shown that children in families who regularly (4 to 7 times per week) eat meals together:
- Report more positive relationships with their parents
- Have lower rates of teen substance abuse
- Have a higher self-esteem
- Have better grades and a more advanced vocabulary
- Have lower rates of anxiety and depression
It does not matter if its fine cuisine served on a silver platter, or microwaved hot dogs and popcorn, just put the phones down, eat together, and connect!
4. Cut out screens in bedrooms
Technology usage typically dramatically increases when it is used in a bedroom, versus a central location. When our kids are in their rooms, they are “out of sight; out of mind” – we all easily lose track of time. Furthermore, when technology is in the bedroom, it is linked to higher likelihood of exposure to pornography and cyber bullying. Instead, keep technology in centralized locations, like living rooms or family rooms.
5. Use a screen time schedule
You may also consider using a schedule for when technology is allowed. For example, on Saturdays, technology can be used from wake-up until 9:30 am. Then, everyone in the family takes a technology break until 4:00 pm. The, at 7:30 pm, technology is put away again, and everyone starts winding down to begin preparing for bed.
6. Have a device docking stations
Have a zone in the house where phones and tablets get connected to charge. When everyone comes in, their phones go in the zone. This helps distance everyone in the family from feeling like they always need to be holding, and checking, their phones.
7. Schedule screen free days
Sometimes, the most efficient detox is the most intense detox. If you feel as if it would work for your family, go completely screen free for a period of time. Maybe it’s one day in June and one day in July. Maybe it’s an entire weekend. Maybe it’s an entire fortnight. The key is, you need a “plan” for adding technology back in. Consider some of the above tips when you do add technology back into your life.
Remember this key to regulating your technology usage: acknowledge that your habits will slip at some point. It will be important to recognize that when it happens and start taking some of the above steps to get balanced again!
Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
P.S. Want more research-based tips on technology? We’ve got you covered! In our June, 2023 deep dive talk for members, we cover: How to set up technology across the ages, and, how to consistently manage technology in your home. Check it out here!
Want more like this? Transform your home with our Parenting 101 Course, and weekly tips from two Child Psychologists.
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