I scan the family room on a sleepy Sunday morning. Even though we haven’t had our breakfast yet and the kids are lounging across the couches still warm and drowsy in their pajamas, the electronic devices are wide awake in their hands. When I step into the room, no one even looks up. I see all five of them fully engaged in a heavy dose of tech binging.
My good morning greeting encourages one or two of them to pause their play for a quick hello or kiss on the cheek, but mostly I know they want to ignore me or hurry me along. I feel instantly annoyed, as if the day has been determined — even at this early hour — by technology.
Over my quiet coffee, I decide to take action. I round them up for one of our favorite family outings: a hike through a local conservation trail. But instead of enthusiasm, I’m met with resistance. They’re comfortable. It’s the last day of spring break. It’s a little rainy. They were just about to make other plans. I hold firm, gather rain gear and portable breakfast for all. Then I announce that our outing is device free. And even though this is something we do often, they maintain their stance and struggle.
Upon minutes of arriving, our gang has found walking sticks and tested tree branches for climbing, skipped rocks and ran toward newly discovered paths. They are all smiles and squeals, adventure seeping out of them. This meandering through the woods together lasts for most of the morning. And it resets the day ahead. In these moments, I’m reminded why I need to push and protect for space from screens and be willing to say that it matters, that we’d be missing out, that those times when we are fully present, give meaning.
Embracing the positive aspects of technology and using it with purpose is a lovely way to share, communicate and enjoy family life with people in the same house or across the world. But building family boundaries around tech use, like device free days, can help us reconnect, strengthen relationships and live a balanced life. Here are five reasons to do just that:
1. When everyone is device free, we are present for possibilities — conversation, cuddling, questions, quiet. It’s amazing what can show up when we make the space.
2. Taking tech breaks makes the people in our life a priority. Choosing different activities like board games, books or a bike ride can build connections of like interest or foster new ones.
3. Enjoying meals without tech invasion can allow us to be mindful and deliberate about what we eat and appreciate sharing the food and time together.
4. We have more time to doodle, think, create, exercise, and rest when we set boundaries around our tech habits.
5. When everyone in the family is device free, we limit distracted parents! Preventing work, friends and other needs and concerns, from invading the moment.
Perhaps you've felt the crush of inescapable technology negatively affecting your relationships. If so, I hope it was helpful to remember just a few of the many reasons setting boundaries for technology use can lead to better relationships and richer lives.
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