Did screens dominate your Thanksgiving celebration this year? If so, it may be a sign that your family needs a digital detox. Need some inspiration? Read about how our blogger discovered her family's screen problem and what she did to solve it. This post was previously published on The Huffington Post's Screen Sense blog.
My husband and I used to make fun of the couples in restaurants who stared longingly at their phones rather than each other. Over plates of over-priced food, they gazed at their screens while never once making eye contact. We vowed never to be that couple. Then, we each got a smartphone -- on the same day. Looking back, that may have been one of the most transformative days of our marriage.
Some of the changes were good. We discovered some fun apps we could play together, we created a shared family calendar, and we found it was so much easier to text grocery lists than write them down and hope we remembered the list on the way out the door. There was no risk of leaving our phones of course; they were practically glued to our palms.
Then one day, we were sitting in the family room with all four kids, and it got eerily quiet. I looked up from our intense game of WWF and surveyed the room. This is what I saw: Billy on his iPod, Kelsey on her laptop, Katie on the Kindle, and Taylor with her LeapPad in hand. One thing was clear: It hadn't taken us long to succumb to the tech temptations that we had -- little by little -- surrounded ourselves by.
This is the part of the story where I would love to tell you that we put down the gadgets once and for all and fell into a group hug, vowing never to neglect each other in favor of an Internet-ready device again. That wasn't exactly how it went though. We did and still do make efforts to have tech-free time together, but we've also accepted that this is a new age, and communication in our society is changing. Our kids need to become digitally literate, and we all need to learn to use technology safely and in moderation.
Keeping Our Tech in Check
There are two ongoing efforts that we make to keep a healthy balance and preserve our offline connections with each other:
We play together offline.
We routinely break out the board games, play hide-and-seek with the little ones and encourage our older kids' love of drawing and reading. We get outside and throw the Frisbee around. We take the bikes to the trail. These are activities we do together while leaving our devices behind. It's fun for the kids and liberating for us.
We play together online.
Our household is a fairly high-tech one. I'd be embarrassed to tell you how many collective devices we have, so swearing off the Internet completely is not something we want to do, but we do make an effort to make our online play quality family time as well. We play learning games together, we watch funny YouTube videos, we look up our favorite songs and sing along while the little girls dance in the background. During these times, I believe the Internet enhances our family time instead of stifling it.