Is technology bringing your family closer together or driving you farther apart? As I look at how I can spend even less time online this fall, I’m hearing I’m not the only one examining this topic.
Every family I know navigates the technology two-step, that devilish dance over the power switch, screen time, and whether to buy the next electronic device du jour. If you feel like your family is suffering from overuse or abuse of technology, it’s important to hit the pause button and reassess how you’re using these tools. Any negative impact on your relationships is a problem. Even if you think the issue doesn’t affect you, it’s still useful to get a clear picture of how much time you spend on your devices and the impacts they are having. Ultimately, you want decisions about how and when your family interacts with technology to reflect your family’s priorities and values. To begin, take the following informal “family media use” survey:
• What electronic devices are you currently using and who uses them? List every device in your household and the users for each.
• How often do you and your kids use each device? List the number of hours and days per week for each user and device. Add up how much each family member spends on “screen time”: Does this match your impression?
• As a couple, have you and your partner discussed media use and your children? Have you agreed on what age and standards are appropriate, now and in the future? How do you determine if media is age appropriate — do you have a resource to help you (such as www.commonsensemedia.org)?
• As a parent, have you established any media-use guidelines with your children? What are they, and do they address all the devices you own?
• Overall, do you feel there is a problem with overuse or does the usage seem appropriate? Are there certain devices or situations that are more problematic than others?
• Assess both the specific ways technology helps your family, as a source of enjoyment and togetherness, and how it gets in the way of togetherness, communication, and well-being.
Many parents find that just taking time to reflect on and answer these questions can serve as a real wake-up call. Sometimes it can be easy to forget that we choose how and when to interact with technology; we are not in control if we allow it to interfere with family time. Overuse and misuse of technology is one of the most pervasive issues of our times. Explore this topic consciously, compassionately, and with curiosity. And, be gentle with yourself.
(An excerpt from Ch. 3 People First, Things Second: The Digital Divide from Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life; pick up a copy of the book to read more and check out my past blog post Is Facebook Changing Who You Are?)
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Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance teachers/speaker author Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and numerous media outlets. Thousands of women in ten countries are participating in Personal Renewal Groups based on her first book, the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Her newest release is Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and son. More on her background here.