Technology and Family Connections

June 1, 2016

Family Time

Being a parent in this day and age means being a soldier in the seemingly never-ending battle to get your kids to put down the electronics and focus on real life from time to time. Television, smart phones, gaming systems, computers and tablets—there is always a device competing with you for your child’s attention.

Parents often feel the need to “stay on top of things” as they try to balance the many responsibilities in their lives as well. What if someone calls? What if work needs me? What if I miss the Mets sweeping the Nationals and locking in first place? It’s a struggle for both generations to unplug and connect, but parents have to set the expectations and be role models.

While this definitely impacts family relationships, research also shows that there are other serious consequences to being plugged in all of the time. For example, social isolation, depression and obesity have all been linked with too much time in front of a screen. In addition, developmental problems in young children have been connected with excessive screen time. While smart phones and tablets have brought us a number of benefits, it’s important to remember to use this great technology in moderation.

Unplugging allows parents to intentionally engage with their children, which has numerous short- and long-term benefits. Children whose parents are actively involved in their lives have higher self-esteem, lower rates of depression, more socially appropriate behavior with peers and increased academic success.

What can you do to reconnect with your kids?

Take time to talk to your kids and learn about their likes and dislikes and then use that information to plan things you can do together. Here are some ways to make family time a priority:

  • Start planning—together! As you’re driving your kids around town, start a scavenger hunt for parks or other fun places that you’ve never been or want to go back to. You can even give them paper and pencil to write down ideas.
  • Make dinnertime family time. Have set dinner times that are, first and foremost, set aside to connect as a family, but that are also times used to plan activities to do together.
  • Participate in “Tech-Free Tuesday”. Make a commitment to spend each Tuesday evening, from 6 p.m. to midnight, away from gadgets and spend that time together.
  • Establish family-fun routines. Plan weekly or bi-weekly family game nights, library nights, etc. that encourage playing together as a family.
  • Take family field trips. Get out and get moving together! Explore neighboring communities, visit a new museum, hike around a local park.

This article was written for the June 2016 edition of Parent Source.