Americans spend 162 minutes on their smartphones each day, according to a 2014 study by Flurry, an advertising and mobile measurement platform. Television watching is at an eight-year high. A report from the University of Michigan shows that children ages two to five spend 32 hours each week in front of the television. And kids ages six to 11 spend 28 hours watching TV per week. A study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that teens spend 7.5 hours a day consuming media.
All of these stats show that tech has taken over family time. Here’s how you can take it back:
Tech Time Limits
Controlling screen time may seem challenging at first. Your tots are quick to grab for iPads and your teens want to stay connected to their peers via smartphones. But setting tech time limits is crucial. Overconsumption of technology has led to a higher risk of childhood obesity, decreased energy, aggressive behavior and poor performance at school, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
First, set appropriate tech use times. It’s much easier for kids to understand when they can be online if you set time limits. For smartphones like the HTC One M9, use the Kid Mode feature or Parent Dashboard to control the content and the amount of time your child spends on the device. TV watching should be limited, too. For example, children can watch one TV show before school and one afterward.
For kids, sleep is very important at a young age. A study from the University of California, Berkeley, found that kids who had electronics in their rooms got less sleep than children without. Poor sleep is directly linked to obesity and poor academic performance.
Here, it’s important to lead by example. Tech serves as a major distraction. Not just to kids, but to adults as well. Checking your email late at night or staying up for just one more episode can wreak havoc on your productivity the next day. Eliminate any screens from your bedroom. Instead of reaching for your tablet, reach for a book. Your child might just follow your example, and then you can talk about what you’re reading together.
Getting everyone to the dinner table is a feat in its own right. Getting the entire family off of their devices is another challenge. The Family Dinner Project might be able to help. The family experts suggest making the dinner table a tech-free zone, turning off all electronics and the TV at dinnertime. They even recommend putting devices, tablets and smartphones in another room. If you’re expecting an important email, or if your kids are adamant about keeping their phone in their pocket, create a one glance policy. This allows everyone to take just one look at their phone during dinner.
Ask your kids to help make dinner. The more involved they are in the dinner-making process the more likely they are to forget about their phones altogether. Plus, this gives you time to catch up about your days and have meaningful conversations without the distraction of technology.
A Day to Unplug
Designate a day on the weekend or during a family vacation to completely disconnect from your devices. Go outside and play. Take a hike. Go to the beach. Spend time together with your family and without your phones.